I have been reflecting this week on my personal journey, my failures and triumphs, the good leaders and the bad, the men and women who invested their time in me, and those who left a lasting impression. I reflected on leadership and the importance of Mentoring those who we lead and not just giving blind directions. I reflected on the importance of walking a journey with someone beside them, not in front leading blindly, or from behind barking arbitrarily.
This lead me to write about, what I believe, is the most important facet of Leadership, and that is Mentoring. The understanding between two individuals at different points on their journey to walk together and learn from each others experiences. This may sound like a different model of mentoring than what is commonly taught, namely where an experienced person takes an inexperienced person and attempts to impart knowledge and experience on them. I kindly draw your attention back to the person leading from the front. Or where a person will share their experiences with staff or individuals via a mass email while never actually allowing time for the people to engage with them personally, I draw you attention to the person barking from the rear.
I therefore want to share the three points I feel are integral in Mentoring, along with some experiences I have had with good and bad mentors, and pitfalls and windfalls of mentoring that I have discovered along the way. The three points I will cover are; Neither Equality nor Equity, Be the Example, and Never Stop Learning.
Neither Equality nor Equity
Simply put Equality is everyone receiving the same thing, and Equity is everyone receiving what they need to meet a socially perceived goal. I never liked either of these labels as they are both narrow in their view. In leadership Equality presumes that everyone should benefit from 10 minutes of mentoring from their Mentor, regardless of actual need. And Equity presumes that everyone should receive what they need to be at a certain knowledge base, productivity level, or personal understanding of leadership. Both of these ideas are flawed.
Not every person can be mentored in the same manner, with the same material, with the same time allocation, Equality. Just as a fish cannot be competently judged on its level of success by its ability to climb a tree, Equity.
I therefore believe that everyone, we as leaders take on, should receive what it necessary for them to succeed in the goal they have set. This may seem like a watered down version of Equity, but hear me out. Understanding that an individuals have differing ideas on what success is, what achieving that success is, and what the mentoring relationship is, has already fundamentally changed the idea of Equity. Remembering that Equity has a pre-established level or goal. Therefore the amount of mentoring, support, instruction guidance, leadership and opportunity for that individual is dependant on both the goal and the ability of the Mentor. Neither of which are fully supported in the idea of Equity.
I have recently being tutoring a collection of Nursing Students in Mathematics, the collection of individuals is vast and experiences doubly so. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, goals and aspirations, and expectations for the tutorial. Understanding this as a leader and mentor, endeavoured to ensure that the goals of each individual were met, while giving each of the students the amount of instruction or guidance they required. For some this was just being a part of the group discussion, for others a more guided approach. In each instance a positive result was recorded. I encouraged each of them, and for those reading this I continue to encourage you, to share what they learn, be the next generation of mentors, take the time investing into someone else and showing them that they matter. I feel the best word to describe this is Patronage. Patronage is a older term that was used when someone, a Patron, would support someone else in their endeavours. This could have been financially, morally, with experience or in whatever fashion the person needed to achieve their goals.
Be the Example
I had the pleasure of sitting in a service at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Rockhampton one Sunday morning listening to a sermon by the Senior Pastor Dr Robert Bakss and he made the point “Sometimes we are the only Bible a person may see, live like it”. This really struck a chord with me in my Christian walk, but it resonates with other aspects of my life also, especially Leadership.
As leaders we have the need to set and implement culture, strategy, rules, and regulations, we are expected to uphold them all but most of all portray them. We cannot expect anyone else to follow our lead if we do anything less. As a young Naval Officer we where expected to be able to lead a group of 25 – 35 people of varying experiences, age groups, and backgrounds. It was expected that our influence and our example was strong enough that those we lead would follow that example. We we charged with their safety, they personal development, their mental wellbeing, and their career development. We were praised when our Sailors did well, and were reprimanded when they did not.
Lord Baden Powell once said “Show me poorly dressed Troop and I’ll show you a poorly dressed Leader”. Most people will follow someones example before they arbitrarily follow a written rule, regulation or culture slogan. As a leader be the example of an employee, team member or peer that you would want to lead.
Never Stop Learning
As leaders it is important to never stop learning, and there is ample opportunity to do so. I had the amazing privilege of serving under the then LCDR Brett Westcott, on Patrol boats early in my career. He was a even handed, professional leader who knew what someone was capable of before they did and could draw it out of them. He never expected perfection but did expect excellence. And his crew gave it to him. One of his parting words before I posted off was “The day you stop learning is the day you become dangerous”. And its true, the day you believe you know everything about your role, your job, your career or even your family is the day you begin to decline into mediocrity and potentially make dangerous mistakes.
I have taken those words and made it my goal to learn something every day, from someone, in every situation, good or bad. I believe that everyone has something to teach you. A leader who is task orientated, narcissistic, or a slave driver who has no concern for people, families or anything out side their own world, anyone who claims mentor status but doesn’t allow the time for those they mentor, all have some of the best lessons to take away. Most of these lessons are going to be what not to do in your own leadership, or with your own team, but they are all valuable lessons none the less.
If you have been following my blog for a while now you will know that I am the Scout Leader for the Warripari Scout Group, I have about 20 Scouts every Wednesday and more when we involve the region on camps. These Scouts have taught me more about my leadership, patience, modesty, honesty, impact, and time management then I think I would have ever received from a book. Every week I have the pleasure of watching them grow and develop into the young leaders of tomorrow, learning lesson after lesson, and I am glad I get to be a part of that journey.
Thats my take on Leadership, it is in no way intended to be all encompassing, nor is it designed to be definitive, just where I am in my journey thus far, and some thoughts for others to reflect on. Do you have something you would like to add? A lesson that you have learnt from your Journey? Share it with us in the comments below, and lets get the conversation going.
Maintain The Rage