I have decided to start a blog to capture some of my thoughts. I know that I can't keep a paper journal to save my life, but I think that the electronic bit might be a bit easier.
I love thought-provoking quotes so I am going to start each entry with a quote and then say a little something about the quote or reflection on how I connect to the message of the quote. I welcome feedback from anyone who might be interested in providing it.
Today's Quote is from a man named Walter Lippmann. Lippmann was a writer, reporter, political commentator in the mid 1900's.
"The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." - Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
As I have matured professionally and personally (which I am sure can be disputed to some degree), I have become more aware of the importance of having positive influences in my life. As a young adult who's father was mostly absent from my life as a role model, I probably stumbled upon the idea of mentorship through my personal need for male role models. Although my mother was an amazing, wise, and caring roll model and mentor for me, there is something special about a young man having a positive male role model in his life. And I don't think it is a matter of capability as much as identity. Sometimes life presents us our most valuable people out of need rather than want.
In fact one of my roll models was a student government advisor who I grew close with in college when I was dealing with some personal challenges. He not only was an amazing mentor for me as a leader, but also in showing me that leadership is just as much about caring about those involved as it is the organization. I believe that successful leadership has a lot in common with the roles of therapists and social workers. If you don't care about the people, they will be able to sense it.
As a younger professional, I assumed that as I become more experienced and "wise" that I would simply have less need for mentors in my life and would start mentoring others. I will let you guess which half of that idea was true.
As I have become more successful my need for mentors has increased and diversified. Instead of having a single mentor that I lean on a lot, I tend now to have quite a group of mentors that help me in different areas of my life. I have one mentor that helps me with my professional development inside my company. I have a mentor that helps me when I need to analyze a difficult or complex situation. I have a mentor that I turn to for spiritual matters. I even have a mentor that I go to when I need advice on how to be a better mentor. Some of the mentors in my life developed casually and some of them developed consciously, both are equally important.
The topic of mentorship is everywhere these days in programs designed to help youth find their way in the world and to help improve the chance that those youth will become successful citizens. Many of the programs that I see a lot of deal with at-risk youth or disadvantaged youth and for good reason. Many times those at-risk youth need some proactive engagement because otherwise they may not seek out those role models on their own. The success of those programs is well known and certainly something we should be celebrating.
All of that being said, don't assume that in order to have a mentor you need to be assigned one through a program or your organization. Take the initiative to think about what you would like to do better or learn more about and find a mentor to help you learn about it and in the process help yourself grow.
As you become more successful and find mentors to help you, don't forget to keep passing on the gift. It doesn't take a lot of time to become a mentor for someone else. Even if you don't actively participate in a mentoring program, consciously decide that you will be open to the idea if you are asked. One lesson I have learned from being a mentor is that the mentee isn't the only one who learns and grows from mentoring. The mentor learns just as much from the opportunity as the mentee, in some cases they get even more out of it.
This brings me back to Lippmann's quote. What good is leadership, mentorship, or any other opportunity if you haven't inspired others to be capable of leading and mentoring after you are gone. Our lives are truly a legacy one way or another. We have ultimate control over the content of that legacy based on how we treat others and how we treat ourselves.
Ghandi said "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." Said another way, you must inspire the future you hope to live in.
This entry is dedicated to one of the mentors that has helped me a lot over the years that I have been in my current job. He was a passionate intelligent man who knew taught me a lot and was always willing to help me build a watch whenever I needed to know what time it was.
Until next time,
"I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vaccuum."
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu