How to be a Great Mentor: A List of 10

By | April 15, 2016

[April 15, 2016]  To be a great mentor doesn’t require much … but it does demand a passion and purpose to arouse the spirit of those mentored.  Much has been said about mentorship here in and elsewhere.  How to separate fiction from fact and opinion from reality is what leadership is all about.  What I’ve done here is compile a list of 10 things that we know a mentor must do for the mentee in order to be the best.1

  1. Build Trust: very difficult to gain but easily lost is building of trust and confidence between mentor and mentee
  2. Provide guidance: mentees need someone to help point out the pitfalls and obstacles and best how to avoid and overcome
  3. Protect and defend: there will be times the mentee will veer from the path of leadership and should be protected and defended although not from the consequences of their actions
  4. Advocate: mentors ensure that the needs of an organization can be met whenever they intimately know the strengths of various mentees
  5. Motivate and focus: another difficult task is providing the right words to help mentees get beyond the day-to-day grind and help them see on the future
  6. Be a sounding board: mentees need someone to bounce ideas off of to see if those ideas are worthwhile
  7. Believe in them: leaders often think they are alone in their struggle to do well but a mentor who believes in them communicates it through every word and action
  8. Look for successes: focus on the good and on the successes to help build confidence and reliability
  9. Provide networks: a professional network is invaluable to the mentee to help accomplish the mission
  10. Listen: that’s right, just listen to their problems, frustrations, and fears and provide some perspective

One thing a mentor rarely does and that’s teaching the basics of leadership.  Anyone whose performance merits a mentor already understands the fundamental concepts of being a leader.  Rarely, however, does a mentor get to chose a mentee but this doesn’t mean that they come without any technical, social, or leader skills.  The mentor helps refine and mold the leadership already present; like a catalyst speeds up a chemical reaction.

I was fortunate to have among the best leaders this nation has to offer as my mentors.  The help they provided me made all the difference.  In my opinion it is rare for a leader to be fully successful without a quality mentor.  I know of no one who was able to achieve Flag rank in the military without a mentor of character and accomplishment.

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  1. The source of the list has the military at the heart but also includes experiences from senior leaders in commerce and government.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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