Make These 5 Commitments to Become a Great Mentor

Guiding Light 2

Teddy Roosevelt once had a little dog that was always getting in fights and always getting licked. Somebody said, “Colonel, he’s not much of a fighter.” Roosevelt replied, “Oh, he’s a good fighter. He’s just a poor judge of dogs.”

Leaders must be good at judging others’ potential and finding and developing more leaders—good at discerning where a person is, knowing where he or she is supposed to go and providing what they’ll need when they get there.

The bottom line in any successful business or organization is that no one person can do it alone. If you really want to be a great leader, you must establish a great team. A lot of people mistake that to mean they need followers, and they believe the key to their leadership is gaining more followers. But the best leaders surround themselves with other leaders. Not only is their burden lightened, but their vision is carried on and enlarged.

This is why I am such a believer in the power of mentorship. A mentor is someone who teaches, guides and lifts others up by virtue of his or her experience and insight. A mentor is someone with a head full of experience and heart full of generosity that brings those things together for another person.

Wherever you are on your leadership journey, I’ll bet there is someone a bit earlier in their own who could use your mentorship. You owe it to them and to yourself to offer it. What is the point of success if we cannot share it with others?

Judging who you will share your time and experience with is of the utmost importance, because it will give your efforts the greatest odds of providing value. Here are some guidelines for selecting the right people to mentor and develop:

1. Select people whose philosophy is similar to yours.

It will be difficult to develop someone whose values are too different from your own.

2. Choose people with potential you genuinely believe in.

If you don’t believe in them, you won’t give them the time they need. And before long they will discern your lack of confidence in them. Belief in their potential, on the other hand, will empower them. Some of the nation’s greatest professional athletes have come from tiny colleges that receive no publicity. All those ball players needed was for pro scouts to recognize the potential that the right opportunity could bring out. The secret of mentoring in any field is to help a person get where he or she is willing to go.

3. Determine what they need.

Determining what potential leaders need involves looking at their strengths and weaknesses objectively. Their strengths indicate the directions they need to go, what they can become. Their weaknesses show us what we need to help them improve. Encouraging them in their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses will move them closer to reaching their potential.

4. Evaluate their progress constantly.

People need feedback, especially early in their development. Ben Franklin said, “The eye of the master will do more work than both his hands.” He knew that leaders’ ability to evaluate is their greatest strength. An honest mentor will be unbiased. If necessary, he or she will encourage a person to stay on course, to seek another direction, or even to enter into a relationship with another mentor.

5. Be committed, serious and available to the people you mentor.

The development of potential leaders around you will be a reflection of your commitment to them: Poor commitment equals poor development; great commitment equals great development.

By personalizing each person’s journey through your devoted mentorship, you are helping him or her to maximize their potential. You are giving them a chance to discover their true purpose. You also maximize their contribution to you and your organization, if they’re already part of your team.

Most people agree that nurturing is important to the development of children. However, they often fail to see its importance in the workplace. They assume that potential leaders will nurture themselves. If we as leaders do not nurture the potential leaders around us, they will never develop into the types of leaders we desire. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

When you nurture other people through your mentorship, everyone wins.

Read next: A Letter to the Best Mentor: Thank You for These 5 Essential Career Lessons

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by fizkes/

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John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.

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