There are crises you encounter in life, where you need a non-flattering mentor to speak the hard things. You receive his words because that mentor has established enough credibility and vested interest to confront you without breaking the relationship. You know he has your best interest at heart. Many times we allow unqualified people to flippantly speak into our lives. Relationship qualifies a mentor to speak into your life in critical times.
Not everybody has a right to confront you. Not everybody has a right to speak into your future. During crisis, you need a mentor as an anchor. If you don’t have a mentor – someone you can trust, someone who can stand as a road rail between you and cliff edge – you are in trouble. As a leader you will face mind-numbing crises. It maybe moral failure. It may be challenges about life. Challenges about where to go from here. It may be complex decisions between “good” and “good” but with vastly different consequences. It may be difficult strategic decisions about your business or career. Crises are normal to life. It’s only those people who are committed to you over a period of time whom you can trust with your very life at these critical times.
Mentorship is relational. If there is no relationship you cannot really claim to be a mentor to somebody. It maybe only a minimal contact relationship. But in reality and in its full manifestation there must be a solid relationship. The relationship ensures that you listen to the person. A relationship allows vulnerability on the part of the person being nurtured as well as opening his mind to counsel.
Viewed from another perspective, mentorship provides a brain to pick on and a shoulder to cry on. It’s a push in the right direction. It is like having another set of eyes to see the world with. We see the world not as the world is, but as we are. Who I am shapes the way I see things. That’s why you notice that until you have made a choice to buy a BMW you do not notice the BMWs. The moment you buy that pink dress then you notice that almost everybody else has that pink dress. Mentorship allows you to see the world from at least two viewpoints. This widens your perspective and brings objectivity to the way you view the world. A discerning mentor benefits from the viewpoint of the person being nurtured. Wise mentors view the process as a mutual learning experience.
The objective eye of a mentor tempers the decisions you make allowing you to manage your blind spots. A mentor notices the discrepancies between your espoused values and the values you live out. These are your real life values. And he shows you the gap between who you say you are and what you are in real life. As a mentor reflects back to you who he sees you to be, you work at closing that gap. That helps in values assimilation. Integrity means an alignment between your espoused values and the ones you live out. Leaders are the embodiment of their espoused values.
Mentors provide honest feedback. A mentor looks you in the eye and says that although people are singing your praises there is this weakness in you. “Because I seek your greatest good I hold you accountable and will not let you to get away with it. I love you so much that I will not leave you the way you are. I will not pretend”. The Bible says “as iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend”. When everyone is faultfinding and criticizing, he shows you your strengths and successes. A mentor is so sensitive that when you are down and everybody is criticizing, he holds up and reflects to you your successes. He affirms you and thus brings balance.