Leader Trends: Can We Mentor?

By | September 28, 2014

[September 28, 2014] All senior military leaders I know today were taught early in their careers that a key component of being successful officers was based on their ability to teach, coach, and mentor. The question that is being asked of many junior leaders today is, “Can we mentor?” In other words, can we effectively ensure that those who work for us are properly educated and motivated to perform? I believe the answer to this is a resounding “yes.” However, I see fewer leaders who have well-developed skills to mentor, but more frightening is that many do not have the will to teach, coach, and mentor others.1,2

There are those who will disagree, of course. They are the ones who are in current positions of high authority who must make a good show of all the resources that are consumed by training leaders how to mentor others. They are distant from the junior leaders who are the “boots on the ground,” making day to day decisions to help others in the workplace. This distance may color their thinking a bit. Yet, the trend for most of us is quiet clear … there is a declining capability of junior leaders and managers to mentor. More alarming is the decline desire to mentor.

Mentors must have the relevant experiences, motivation, clarity of thought, and have the ability to connect with people. These are the minimum requirements for a successful mentor. Motivation appears to be the decisive trait that is missing in so many leaders. Why this is so remains a bit of a mystery, yet the fact is junior leaders are often unwilling to mentor others. Perhaps this is connected with other trends in Western societies such as a growing level of the victimization culture and their lower levels of job satisfaction.

When I ask senior military flag officers about this, I’m told that young leaders not being able to mentor may be just our myopic view of the young and that they will improve with experience. Thus, many oppose my assessment on technical grounds. However, I disagree in that the skill of mentoring is not the true measure of success but the desire and willingness to mentor that determines their future.

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[1] The practice of mentorship is lost in antiquity. It’s effectiveness is without question among leaders. The influence especially of the older and more experienced person leading the younger is well established in time.

[2] For a good summary of “mentoring” see the summary in Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentorship



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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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