7 Expectations for Leaders I Mentor A Foundation for Mentor Relationships

Have you ever mentored a person in the area of leadership, but felt like you were getting nowhere? In my experience with training leaders, I have developed seven expectations for my mentorship candidates. When these criteria are met, the person being mentored seems to grow so much more.

mentoring leaders

If the person is missing one or more of these seven traits, but I feel confident they can quickly adapt or grow (within weeks), then I communicate it to them clearly and gently. If, however, I am not certain they can make necessary changes, or are not receptive to my suggestions, I kindly excuse myself from the mentoring relationship.

Here are the seven traits:

  1. They realize they need to grow. When a person believes that he or she needs to grow, they will have a heightened desire to learn. Even with an active desire to improve, significant growth may not occur because growth is often slow and difficult. Until a leadership candidate realizes the complexity required to become a person who is consistent, passionate, effective, and ready to handle the myriad situations a leader faces, they are not fit to lead. I have worked with many leaders over the years who were highly confident that they had what it takes. They did not want to hear suggestions on how to improve their leadership. These leaders’ effectiveness is usually short-lived.
  2. They are willing to grow. Knowing you need to grow, and being willing to sacrifice and make the effort to grow, are not the same. When I work with a person to help them on their leadership journey, I want to see evidence that they are willing to do what is necessary to grow. It is not enough to verbally show excitement. Growth takes time away from other areas one may value in their life. Growth requires resources to buy books or attend seminars.
  3. They have growth disciplines. Believing that growth is crucial and being willing to make the necessary sacrifices will not advance one’s personal development. We must practice growth disciplines. What are growth disciplines? Here are a few examples: reading, writing, teaching, being mentored, reflecting, being organized to capture what is taught and reviewing it diligently. If a person does not have some disciplines already in place, I look for them to being willing to follow my instruction in this area and be consistent with it.
  4. They capture what I share with them. One of the first things I ask people to do when I share with them what I know, is to write it down. Writing down what someone is teaching not only communicates respect for that person’s time, but it also creates a reference for the learner to go back to. I am not suggesting the person follow me around like a reporter with a notepad and pen ready at all times. However, I do expect that if they hear something noteworthy, they take notes. For example, I may say, “John, I want to share with you a couple of principles that could be life changing for you. They are…” At that point, John should grab a pen and paper and write those ideas down. If John just stares at me, this is not good enough. He will likely forget what I am to tell him.
  5. They will review and reflect what I share with them. Most of us possess the habit of writing things down, but often fail to refer to our notes later. One glance at the stacks of papers piled up on many of our desks containing valuable lessons we wrote down but never picked up again, affirms this reality. It it not enough to simply take notes. We must review (read and reflect on) what we are being taught in order to integrate positive change. 
  6. They will apply what I share with them. The knowing-doing gap is wide for most of us. Knowing a truth is of no benefit if we don’t apply it.  Application is what I am after in my leadership trainees. This is important for two reasons. First, without application they will not grow or be effective. Second, without application I will not be able to see what they have learned, or if they are able to absorb and apply what I am sharing with them. I am not looking for a flawless application of what I am teaching, but I am expecting a strong intentional attempt to apply what they are learning.
  7. They will teach what I share with them. One of the best ways to reflect on and fully understand a concept is to share it with others. My wife and I practice this discipline to share with each other what we learn. When I learn a new principle, or hear a powerful story or illustration, I am eager to tell her about it and hear her response. Likewise, leaders sharing what they are learning is a powerful way to articulate a new principle so it is remembered, as well as test it to see if others affirm or challenge the new idea. 

It is so rewarding when you see people around you become better leaders. Effective leadership and mentorship changes lives. I hope you invest in those around you to help them lead better at work and at home.

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

For Further Reading:

Mentorship 101
A List of My Current Mentors

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