Why All Great Leaders Need a Mentor
It’s never easy to admit to yourself that your career may be going in the wrong direction, or that you’ve lost your “mojo,” motivation or drive.
But many of today’s most successful business leaders once needed guidance from mentors. For example, technology titan Bill Gates credits business magnate and philanthropist, Warren Buffet, for teaching him how to think long-term. Gates sought advice from someone who had already “walked the talk.”
Most of us, at some point in our careers, need a guiding hand. Or, perhaps more accurately, several guiding hands, from different people at different times.
The Benefits of Having a Mentor
Such is the story of Jason Garner: a man who, with his rags-to-riches story, embodies the American Dream. Garner rose from flea-market parking attendant to one-time CEO of Global Music at Live Nation, the world’s most successful concert promoter.
In our Expert Interview, he reveals that having a “mosaic of mentors” played a huge part in his business success. Garner says, “We’ve got this idea of role models, that we’re going to find one who embodies everything we want. It doesn’t usually work that way.
“I think we can find five or six role models – sometimes it’s a formal mentorship, but sometimes mentorship can be reading a book, or listening to a phone call, or whatever it is that we find as a way to get information from somebody.”
What Qualities to Look For in Mentorship
After several years at Live Nation, Garner met the man he still calls his “first guru.” That man was Michael Rapino.
“He really taught me how to be a leader, and forced me to grow up in the way that I approached business, and other people,” Garner recalled.
Rapino helped Garner to always look for the “really simple solution” to a problem. Garner learned to consider what services and products people need, how to offer them, and, most importantly, not get too caught up in processes.
“When you have a meeting [with Michael Rapino], you really walk away believing that he cares about you,” adds Garner. “And where so many people rush you in and out of their office, and just want to talk dollars and cents, that was never his style.”
Finding Mentors Wherever You Can
“I had the disadvantage as a boy of not having a dad,” says Garner. “I had a very strong mother, but I didn’t really have a male role model. So, from a very young age, whether it was my high school teacher, people at the flea market, or Michael Rapino, I was blessed to learn from these people.
“What these mentors were able to teach me is that they each had gems, they each had little bits that I was able to glean. And when I look in the mirror at my life and at myself, I see parts of these beautiful teachers that I continue to find today.
“And you can’t separate those pieces – it’s like a mosaic on a wall,” he adds.
Lessons Still Apply Today
The lessons he learned years ago still apply today, Garner says. “I have moments where I can just hear a mentor whispering something in my ear, and I have the answer. That’s such a blessing for me.”
Put simply, mentors can offer valuable insight into what it takes to get ahead. They also offer a useful sounding board for ideas, helping you to decide on the best course of action in difficult situations.
But What Does The Mentor Get Out of This?
“People are familiar with the advantages of mentoring from the protégé side,” says Ellen Ensher, Associate Professor of Management at Loyola Marymount University. “Protégés generally make more money, get more promotion, and express greater career and job satisfaction.
“But, remember that an organization [if it’s a work-based arrangement] also gets something. Mentoring is a great way to transfer knowledge and organizational culture. And, it can increase retention for those who are there. They get a sense of greater loyalty.”
Mentoring has even been shown to increase organizational productivity, adds Ensher, as people “feel more attached and they ascribe greater meaning to their work. They feel that they’re in a place where they can learn and develop.”
Mind Tools Club members and Corporate subscribers can read more of Ensher’s comments in our Expert Interview.
The Personal Impact of Mentoring
On a personal level, a mentoring relationship can help a mentor to build leadership skills, and to learn how to motivate others. Also, by working with someone less experienced, they can gain a fresh perspective.
It can also be very personally fulfilling to know that you’ve directly contributed to someone’s growth and development.
And, for the mentee, the process can be instrumental in enabling you to develop your knowledge and skills, by identifying the expertise you need to move your career to the next level.