When I think of leader development I do not envision a formal program although I have been a part of many; some were decent but most were a complete waste of time. My approach to leadership development is to have conversations with my fellow leaders; and I think that is the first step in the process, seeing everyone in the organization as a fellow leader.
Warren Bennis uses the term “intimate allies” when discussing the leader follower relationship. The creation of such a relationship would seem to be best facilitated through the mentorship process.
While most would agree that mentorship is worth pursuing it can be quite time consuming and requires senior leader involvement. How might we then foster a culture that can integrate the learning needs of the potential mentee while at the same time encouraging experienced leaders to “donate” their time to the novice? It can only come from the top of the organization.
A previous leader and present mentor of mine, Admiral Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe commented that mentorship is a priority for any organization. His approach to mentorship was to provide himself as a model of how to interact with others.
A true leader he stated is one who “listens, learns, educates and then leads.” He notes that a leader who desires to build trust and commitment with their followers must approach leadership in this way or it is a waste of time and effort.
Of course any mentorship program whether formal or informal must ultimately be of value to the organization. From that perspective then mentoring should guide the follower in the realities of the organization itself and it should focus on the mentees professional development, skill improvement and organizational socialization.
The primary goal, from the organization’s perspective, of the relationship is to provide the mentee with career coaching and to be an advocate for the mentee. The advocate role is designed to showcase the mentee’s talents to a higher level audience than would normally be available.
Additionally, the mentor’s ability to provide constructive feedback cannot be overstated, without feedback the mentee will not garner much from the experience. While mentees take on many aspects of the mentor’s philosophy it is not the primary outcome desired from the relationship. It is the mentee‘s overall development that is the primary concern as this relationship is follower centric.
This mentorship aspect of leadership seeks to ensure the effectiveness of each follower so as to develop them into future leaders – ones that will ultimately become mentors themselves. If we can create this cycle of service then our organizations can thrive in even the most chaotic environments.