What to Know When Seeking a Leadership Mentor

RL01-11-2016Throughout history, sages and wise individuals were held at high esteem for one simple reason—they had years of life experience. Villages typically had a designated person who locals sought out for wisdom and advice. But in today’s society, it has become harder to recognize who to seek out for guidance on leadership and wisdom.

We are still connected to a community, like centuries past, but not in the same way as before. Our community is a global one that is connected virtually through the Internet and social networking sites and apps. With a click of a button or a swipe of a finger, we can find anything we ever thought we wanted to know in regard to knowledge, wisdom, and leadership advice. But even with all these resources, it’s hard to find a go-to person who can mold and mentor you into the leader you need to be. Before you start seeking out a mentor, there are a few things you must first know.

Know what you need.

Before starting your search for a personal leadership mentor, it is vital to understand not just what you’re looking for, but what you need. Every professional is different; what may work for one may not work for another. Start out by making a list of where you want to be in the near-to-not-far-off future. Include accomplishments you’d like to achieve, goals you want to see to fruition, strengths you want to continue building, and weaknesses you would like to improve. Once you have a good idea of where you want to be as a leader, then you can start to determine what type of mentor will help shape you. Do you struggle with apathy or not completing goals? Maybe you need a go-getter, goal-oriented mentor. If you want to be better at delegating and building up your employees, then a person in management with an attention to empathy and encouragement may be the mentor for you. Know first what you need, then develop the right model of a mentor to achieve your goals.

Know where to look.

Once you have a good idea of what that person should look like, it’s time to start looking for a mentor. Because of our fast-paced society, it may be hard to slow down and network the old-fashioned way. But, that’s exactly what you should do in this case. Simply searching on LinkedIn won’t cut it. Attend business functions, career networking events, and professional organization meetings. These are good places to start your search. Will it be automatic? No. But if you’re persistent and dedicated to your goal of finding the right person, more than likely, you will. Just like you would when seeking new employment, ask colleagues for their input and ideas. Make as many connections as possible and be open about who you’re looking for. More than likely, professionals on your level have experience with choosing mentors and may have some advice for you.

Know when to stop looking.

Sometimes, the very thing we seek is right under our nose. Often times, we go out in search of an individual who can help us achieve our career goals, when all along we were already in close proximity to them. Depending on your company culture, it may be perfectly acceptable—and even encouraged—to choose a supervisor or other seasoned professional from your company as a mentor. Having an “in-house” mentorship may cut down on the rapport-building process of the relationship, so you can get straight down to the core of development. This same philosophy may also work with a trusted advisor at a local faith-based organization or even a family member. Just because you already have a close relationship with someone doesn’t mean they are ill-fit to mentor. Actually, it could mean the opposite, and you may find they are the perfect well to tap for great advice and development.

Know the process.

After you have a designated mentor, be sure to lay out a specific process to follow. Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly, it is imperative to be diligent in maintaining consistency with meetings. Get together and discuss what you want to achieve in your career, lay out how you want the mentor relationship to go, and let him or her know that you are dedicated to the overall success of the mentorship. Once you have agreed on frequency, structure, and goals, you are well on your way to becoming the leader you, your company, and your employees need you to be.

Are there some need-to-knows that we missed? How did you find the perfect leadership mentor for you? Let us know in the comments section below!

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