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The importance of mentorship as a leader

When it comes to leadership, the notion of mentoring often conjures images of seasoned veterans guiding bright-eyed novices through their early career. Yet, an often-overlooked truth is that mentorship becomes, if anything, more valuable as you progress through your career – and is perhaps at its most valuable for those leading an organisation.

Another often hidden reality is that the summit of any organisation can be an isolating and lonely place to sit. It’s a place where the weight of decisions does not merely rest on your shoulders but can so easily be traced into every part of your life, impacting mental health, family and relationships. It is, in my opinion, a place that the counsel of a mentor transforms from a nicety to a necessity.

I’ve benefited from mentorship as a business leader for almost a decade and a half – both through 1-1 mentoring (which is the most common) but also through joining peer group mentoring (specifically I’ve been a member of the Executive Foundation). I have also mentored for around a decade. Initially mentoring colleagues within my own business, but over time with leaders of dozens of different businesses across a multitude of sectors – and with leaders of varying experience.

One thing that I have come to realise through both mentoring and being mentored is that mentorship fosters a culture of continuous learning and humility. It’s a reminder that leadership is not so much a destination but a continuous journey marked by perpetual growth. And what better way for a leader to signal to their team that growth is an ongoing process and that there is always room for improvement than by demonstrating that first hand by sharing their experiences of mentoring – and yes, that is partly what I’m doing right now!

Another outcome of extended exposure to mentorship is the upskilling by osmosis. I feel I have personally become a significantly better mentor over the years. Partly through practice, but largely by experiencing learning the techniques and skills of those mentoring me. If I had to summarise, I’d say that being mentored teaches leaders to hear not just the words but the stories, aspirations, and concerns behind them. This skill is invaluable in mentoring others, where understanding and empathy lay the groundwork for impactful guidance.

In essence, the journey of mentorship is a full circle. It begins with seeking guidance, evolves through sharing experiences, and culminates in the enriched ability to guide others. For leaders, mentorship is not just about being better in their roles but about fostering an environment where everyone can rise to their fullest potential – and if anything that sounds about as far from ‘lonely and isolated’ as I think you can get.

So go and find yourself a mentor.