Mentoring – A Leader’s Investment in the Future

Most leaders have a concern about the future. In fact, if they don’t have a concern for the future, I would really hesitate to call them a leader. If a leader is trying to uphold the status quo, then I seriously doubt they are worth following.

With an eye on the future, a leader will also come to some sobering truths, one being that he or she can’t do this leading responsibility alone. It’s an “all hands on deck” kind of thing. Of course, not “all hands” will be leading in the same capacity. But teamwork is essential for the ship to move forward.

With this in mind, a leader should be on the alert for opportunities to serve his or her fellow shipmates. A team consists of individuals, each who have, in addition to a loyalty to the vision and mission of their organization (or at least we hope,) aspirations and dreams of their own. Your fellow ship hands won’t be on your ship all their lives. Some of them will move on to other endeavors. Some will stay and serve faithfully for many years. Regardless, it is your responsibility as a leader to help them navigate their lives. Not only are you navigating for your organization, you are assisting others in their growth.

Having said this, it is not your responsibility to chart a course out for every detail of their lives. Nor do you invade their sense of autonomy, offering unwanted counsel. But, in the context of a relationship of trust, respect, and love, be aware of those moments when your colleagues are open to encouragement. Look for ways you can offer assistance. Humbly ask them if you can show them some guidance. If they are willing, then share, and then pay attention. If they respond with openness and appreciation, take that as a signal of them being available for further discussions down the road. If you sense they are closed, then you are better off waiting for other signals later on. Let them take the initiative in approaching you. In fact, anytime a constituent comes to you for assistance, that is a great opportunity to begin planting the seeds of a mentoring relationship. Just don’t make this “mentoring” relationship an “official” thing.

It’s also important to note that you do not navigate for others in arenas in which you have no competence. Help them find the appropriate resources, then point the way. But steer clear of rocky areas where you have no experience.

It’s also necessary to point out that you do have authority to discuss with your people matters to which they are directly responsible for in the organization in which you are their superior. This is not an option for them. Of course, you do it with kindness and respect, but firmness. Even in these moments you have great opportunities to invest in their lives.

All of this also depends on the idea that you are a growing individual yourself. If you are not pouring fresh water into yourself every day, then you have nothing of value to offer others. You need to develop your own inner resources, and have a collection of external resources to offer as well.

The people you lead are your future. You need to help shape the next generation to take the helm once you move on. This is part of the legacy of a leader. Navigate the ship’s mission, and your crew. Help them find the North Star.