Mentorship is a Two-Way Street so Mentor & Be Mentored
- 24 Best Leadership Practices | Part 12 of 24 -
PART 1: Outbound Mentorship
A great leader doesn’t create followers but instead creates other leaders. Indeed, perhaps the most rewarding yet often-overlooked aspect of leadership is unlocking people's potential. This can only happen through a significant commitment to outbound mentorship. While one's time as a leader may be fleeting the investment one makes in people is enduring. As Harvey S. Firestone noted, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” Simply, “when you become a leader, success is all about growing others (Jack Welch).” Thus, so much of leadership is not only inspiring people to become a better version of themselves but also ensuring they are best equipped to help the enterprise turn its aspirational goals into a reality. “If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish (Sam Walton).” Instead of annual or even quarterly reviews, leaders at all levels should focus on making the daily investment in people. After all, there is perhaps no greater ROI than one’s investment in those around them.
Part II: Inbound Mentorship
While outbound mentorship is vital, on its own it is not sufficient because any leader can and should learn from those around them. Indeed, teaching and learning are not the opposite of each other but rather are completely intertwined. As such, effective communication and investment in people is one that deploys two-way communication. Otherwise, it is commanding not communicating. Accordingly, mentorship is no longer a one-way discussion but rather a two-way street. For example, leadership of yesterday was more about commanding than listening. Today, on the other hand, volatility is the new normal and with that comes a vast array of necessary functional expertise that is vital for keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Consequently, leaders must have the humility to embrace inbound mentorship, which embodies a willingness to listen and be mentored by people across the enterprise. Such an inbound approach is vital because leaders no longer have the ability to slowly get up to speed. Instead, 100 days may be all one has to not only gain the trust of one’s team but to also drive results. Unfortunately, it is truly impossible to become an expert on functional areas that have taken others 10-20 years to master. Thus, instead of commanding or thinking one must have the right answer, leaders must instead (1) listen, (2) learn, and (3) ask for feedback. After all, interaction fuels action and humility inspires devotion. A leader that is genuinely self-confident knows they can’t be good at everything. As such, great leaders are proud of their strengths yet realistic about their shortcomings. As such, two-way mentorship instead of one-way mentorship creates winners.
Bringing It All Together
Two-way mentorship requires a cultural shift. Firstly, great leaders have the humility and understanding to realize valuable feedback can come from any level of the organization. However, awareness is not enough. Instead, leaders must ensure employees have the comfort, empowerment, and ability to truly lead up. Such a transparent, open, and empowered culture takes time to create, especially when organizational inertia is moving in the opposite direction. To begin with, leaders should ensure they give everyone – from the bottoms-up a voice. This begins with leaders leaving their ivory towers and meeting face-to-face with frontline employees, asking for their input and guidance. After all, those closest to the customers (i.e., the frontline) are living and breathing the business each moment of the day. Indeed, they likely have a better idea on how to improve the business than the C-Suite executives perched in the rarified air of the C-Suite. As such, leaders will be a visible role model that shifts the momentum to a culture that embraces candor, two-way feedback, and truth instead of artificial harmony and/or groupthink - the destroyer of innovation and growth.
To summarize, mentorship is both outbound and inbound. Regarding outbound mentorship, great leaders recognize that their highest calling is to unlock people's potential to be their best self. Indeed, while one's time as a leader may be fleeting the investment one makes in people is enduring. As such, a great leader doesn’t create followers but instead creates other leaders through a significant investment in outbound mentorship. Regarding inbound mentorship, leaders must create a culture of learning, candor, and humility so that people are empowered to give feedback and mentorship from the bottoms-up. Such a mindset is even more pertinent in today's landscape where incessant change and volatility are the new normal. Thus, leaders must not only give but also ask for continuous feedback. Only then can the potential of the entire organization be truly unlocked. Remember, teaching and learning are not the opposite of each other but rather are completely intertwined. As such, make a lasting investment via outbound mentorship while simultaneously empowering those around you to make a lasting investment on you and others around them. Simply, mentor and be mentored for true leadership success.
Read the other best leadership practices HERE.
24 Best Leadership Practices
- Series Overview -
The following article is Part 12 of a 24 part series on leadership (See all 24 best leadership practices HERE). To summarize, leadership is everyone’s business. Moreover, leadership abilities are not some innate talent that some were either born with or not but rather is a highly learnable skill. As such, everyone has the potential to become a great leader as long as one embraces a mindset of continuous improvement. Simply, leadership is not so much about inherent gifts and raw talent but rather the emotional awareness, humility, and perseverance to understand that leadership is a lifelong journey that is never mastered. Indeed, aspiring leaders must acquire the endurance of a marathoner, the musculature of a sprinter, and the mental fortitude to embrace that there is never a finish line but rather an unending goal of continuous transformation.
Ultimately, the leadership journey is not about becoming someone else but instead is about becoming one's best self so that in turn one can help others become their best self. And, while there are many facets that go into successful leadership we have identified 24 best leadership practices all of which are grouped into one of three categories, namely (1) inspire, (2) empower, and (3) innovate (see all 24 practices HERE).
- INSPIRE: To inspire action, great leaders appeal to people's hearts more than their minds. Simply, visionary leaders plan with the mind, lead with the heart, and reflect with the soul.
- EMPOWER: Great leaders empower those they are leading while simultaneously creating a collaborative culture that promotes the notion that together we can accomplish anything as long as we don't care who gets the credit.
- INNOVATE: Visionary leaders embrace change and understand that the term "good enough" is used by the lazy to justify inaction. As such, great leaders disrupt themselves and their companies before others do it for them.
Leadership is the greatest race one will ever run – one without a finish line but also one with an exponential ceiling for those that embrace change, growth, and learning. While the level of employee talent may determine the potential of an organization it is the leader that ultimately unlocks that potential and determines the success of both the organization and its people. Although no leader will be a master at each of the proposed 24 leadership practices, awareness is often the greatest agent for change and continuous improvement. As such, we hope the proposed practices will be of service to you in maximizing not only your leadership potential but also the potential of those around you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joshua Seedman is the founder and chairman of PNI Consulting, a management consulting firm that specializes in global transformations. He has over 20 years of operating and general management experience with expertise in organizational transformations, customer experience, employee engagement, digital transformations, sales & marketing, operational turnarounds, culture/change management, and high-stakes negotiations. His experience includes executive roles within F500 companies, top-tier consulting leadership (McKinsey & Company), over 10 years of global P&L ownership, and corporate lawyer (Davis Polk & Wardwell). He received his MBA from Kellogg School of Management and his Juris Doctor (cum laude) from Northwestern University School of Law.