Updated: Nov 18, 2019
History and legend record the deeds of princes and kings, but each of us has a birthright to actualise our potential. Through their deeds and work, mentors help us to move toward that actualisation ~Gordon F. Shea
There are times in most of our lives when there were people who were willing to mentor us but we didn’t recognise them or we felt the timing was wrong or we didn’t think we needed mentoring, and the opportunity to grow and change was lost.
And there have been times when we have been willing to spend time and effort to empower someone else to mature and develop as a leader but they either didn’t realise it or didn’t care. Consequently, they never realised what opportunities may have been available to them if they’d been open to the rigours and challenges of being a learner, up close and personal.
No one ever said it is easy to be mentored, or to be a mentor. Like anything worth doing, it’s tough and messy at times, and sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it. I suppose Jesus felt like that on occasions. Judas obviously did. And Paul and Timothy and lots of others knew the blessings and irritations of being in a mentoring relationship.
However, regardless of the pressures, and regardless of whether the context is leadership or inventing or government or sports or business and finance or social enterprise or Church, each generation builds its future by investing in the rising generation. Failing to do that is a short sighted and anti-visionary expression of passivity and self-centredness, and as mentioned in a previous post, it lacks awareness of the big picture.
Most leaders don’t have balance in mentoring. Some are happy to mentor but don’t feel the need of input for themselves. Others love being mentored but never get around to passing it on. The problem is, when you don’t aim for relationships in each sector, you end up with some real blind spots. Balanced mentoring can address that and in the process, bring real growth and development that will unleash your potential in radical new ways.
Draw a square like the one above and divide it into triangles. Shade in the areas you DON’T have a mentoring relationship. Here are four possible imbalances may help you rectify your own balance as you develop in mentoring.
1. If your entire square is shaded in, you are a Lone Ranger type who does not have any relationships in which you are accountable for your actions or attitudes. These people tend to be entrepreneurial, task focused and workaholic, and feel it’s a waste of time to build personal relationships. Ultimately, burnout or a spectacular fall from a great height is very predictable.
To rectify this: Begin to look for people to mentor, and also for someone to mentor you. When that is done, start developing lateral relationships with peer mentors.
2. If your square is shaded above and on the side, but not below, you are an authoritarian leader who is highly directive and not all that willing to receiving feedback; most people are afraid to feed back to you anyway. You tend not to notice the sort of signals that would help you realise you have a problem and can be accused of abusing power. This kind of leader is often ousted in times of confrontation. Conflict in ministry is normal for them.
To rectify this: Look for someone to mentor you first, and then look for external lateral mentors. Later, when you have established a learning posture, you can develop relationships with internal peers. After all this is in order, downward mentoring can be effectively put in place. If the leader doesn’t sort out areas where they can be inputted by others, their very directive leadership style will be inherited by those they mentor and the authoritarian style of leadership will continue through to the next generation.
3. If the top, bottom and external are shaded, you are an elitist, according to Prof. Robert Clinton. They usually operate in a para-church organisations or a cutting edge church where there is a lot of freedom from organisational strictures. They are passionate about what they do and feel that because it’s the ‘best’, they don’t need someone from another organisation contributing to their learning process. If they do have relationships, it’s with internal peers at a loose level, operating on a ‘how to’ basis, or a competitive basis.
To rectify this: Establish external relationships with other cutting edge ministries in order to relate over the areas in common. Once you learn that others aren’t competing, God can use those relationships to help broaden your outlook. When that has taken place, it will be possible to get a mentor and this should first be someone on the outside of the organisation. From there, look for people to mentor, with a view to accountability as well as growth.
4. If your square is shaded to the left and down, your leadership style is a politician. Politicians are attracted to positional authority. You recognise how organisations work and you sense levels of power, which makes you more able to work the system to benefit yourself. Your relationships tend to be within the organisation although not for accountability or perspective but rather, for promotional opportunities.
To rectify this: Find a mentor to help you develop the spiritual aspect of your leadership. Then look for external peers to help give you perspective, after which you can work with mentees in a more effective way.
Very few of us have all of these aspects of mentoring working together. At different times and seasons we may need more of one and less of another, but even though we may not experience all of these relationships simultaneously, it is important to realise that we need four types of people in our lives in order to strengthen our leadership.
someone to input us
someone to input
friends within the organisation to encourage and challenge us
friends outside our organisation to challenge and encourage us
Mentoring has provided for me some of the richest and most satisfying relationships I have ever had. Many people I have begun to mentor have gone on to become some of my closest friends with whom I’ve shared the deepest issues of my heart. I have loved and valued the transformations that have taken place as they’ve gone from being learners to being my peers and dear friends.
Was it easy all the time? Most definitely not, but it’s been fun and worthwhile and immensely empowering to everyone involved.
I love this quote. It refers to women but equally suits both genders. It accurately sums up the realities of mentoring.
We older women who know we aren’t heroines, can offer our younger sisters at the very least, an honest report of what we have learned and how we have grown ~Elizabeth Janeway
If I could only do one thing for the remainder of my life, it would very likely be mentoring. In doing so, I know that the things I’ve learned and gained will not die with me, but will continue on long after I’m forgotten, building the Kingdom of God, which is the most precious thing my life could ever be spent on.
I encourage you to try out some of these aspects of mentoring. Don’t choose not to because they’re unfamiliar territory. Whether you choose to be mentored, or to find someone to mentor, whether you make a decision to put aside your image and let your friend speak truth and challenge into your life, you will not be sorry. On the contrary, you may even be surprised at the doors of opportunity that open to you because of it.
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