Your mentors should not just be a more experienced version of you.
Despite what everyone tells me a mentor should look like (a professional in my industry, X years of experience, so on and so forth), I like to think of my mentors like Abraham Lincoln’s distinguished, yet very diverse cabinet. Lincoln’s cabinet consisted of both rivals and leaders with very diverse views, ranging from moderate to radical. Historians attribute much of Lincoln’s success to his ability to probe for ideas and different perspectives when seeking guidance and counsel.
Along with Lincoln’s successes, history, science, relationships, and business all reiterate the same truth that diverse perspectives are capable of inspiring better outcomes and enriching learning. Which is why I’ve worked to find mentors in professions that range from leadership development, art, design, and business, to yoga instructors and academic professors.
Seek out who inspires you.
One mentor—a highly successful studio owner and yoga instructor—gives me very different guidance on a situation than another mentor (an executive for 30 plus years at Proctor & Gamble). Yet, both of these voices sound different than my mentor who has worked more than three decades in academia. Having multiple and varied mentors advising me on the same issues forces me to THINK CRITICALLY about what decision or action I should take. Each of my mentors are influential because they never answer my questions for me. They help me wrestle my gut, my head, and my heart in order to find my voice and my next step. While I am wrestling and processing, they make me aware of their support, even if they know my next step is bound to fail.
Their support varies greatly in form.
When I analyze each of my mentors, there is one common thread that ties them each together: They all inspire me.
They inspire me through their past accomplishments. More particularly, however, I appreciate their willingness to share their failures. They inspire me in their abilities to raise the bar for those around them. They similarly inspire me to raise the bar of expectations in my own life, both personally and professionally.
Most important of all, their focus is not on inspiring me to become “something”…but rather on becoming “someone.” Their motivation, interest, and drive are never based on the tangible and perceived outcome of “what” I end up doing (in a situation or with my life.) They are concerned with “who” I am becoming and how that will affect both myself and others.
And perhaps that is their greatest wisdom. Perhaps their greatest ability to inspire comes from their deep knowledge that “who” we are—and “who” we desire to be—ultimately determines “what” we do and “how” we do it.
Written by: Stacie Burley, former Milestone Leadership associate
To read more on the topic of mentoring, check out this additional Milestone Leadership blog: