Mentoring is a significant and meaningful professional developmental relationship between two people. It can take different forms such as workplace mentoring, youth mentoring, or academic mentoring as well as taking on different shapes such as reverse mentoring or peer mentoring. Regardless of the form or shape, mentoring implies a pairing of a more experienced individual (the mentor) with a less experienced individual (the mentee/protégé́) to accelerate the development of the mentee.
Due to its defining structure (i.e., close relationship between an experienced and inexperienced individual that is tailored to the needs of the mentee), mentoring can potentially be a powerful tool for developing leaders. Day’s (2000) review on leadership development, for example, proposed mentoring as an effective tool for leadership development.
After reviewing research on mentoring and leadership development, Ayoobzadeh and Boies (2020) offered the following empirically validated recommendations for mentoring leaders.
- Mentors and mentees should have established roles with the mentor having greater and more successful leadership experience.
- Mentees (NOT mentors) should establish specific goals around improving their leadership.
- Mentors and mentees both enter the mentorship program seeking to develop as leaders.
- The program incorporates all three forms of leadership development:
- Leadership instruction comes from mentors, external experts, and readings.
- Leadership demonstrations from mentors and organizational leaders displaying quality leadership behaviors and skills.
- Leadership practice requires mentees to use their newly acquired skills.
- Mentees reflect on their leadership development throughout the program and share reflections with mentors who provide feedback on these reflections.
Having a sustained mentor-mentee relationship provides mentees with more knowledge of and opportunities for accelerating their growth as leaders than can be found in many traditional leadership development programs.
Ayoobzadeh, M., & Boies, K. (2020). From mentors to leaders: leader development outcomes for mentors. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 35(6), 497–511.
Day, D. V. 2000. “Leadership Development: A Review in Context.” The Leadership Quarterly 11 (4): 581–613.