Mentoring for Leadership

Part One

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five


When we look at the subject and process of mentoring for leadership we must first give specific definitions to certain words in the context of how we are discussing this subject. Without the specific definitions of the key words, the subject is easily twisted to suit the participant's perspective as opposed to the desired effect in the setting in which the mentoring process is utilized.

The Great Commission that Jesus gave to His Apostles just before He ascended in Matthew 28, is in fact a call to become a mentor of others in their spiritual lives in Jesus Christ as Christians. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20) The issue of “making disciples” is all involved in an act of spiritual mentoring.

First, let’s define what a "Mentor" truly is. A mentor is an experienced person who trains or educates someone else by instruction and example. Please note the two key components in this definition. They are "instruction" and "example". A real mentor is not just and educator. This is because not all educators lead others by a personal example in their lives. The educator may be very learned in a particular subject, but have never experienced it in their own personal history. Thus, an educator may be able to teach the subject or topic of interest from an intellectual standpoint based on known facts or theories involved in that subject, but the educator cannot be a mentor to someone in that arena of study because they cannot be observed in and exemplary situation of practical experience. A mentor must be able to adequately convey both intellectual instruction and a practical "real time" example in both the arenas of study or practice.

In that, let us be sure not to diminish the role of the educator. Education is vital important to our mental development, our spiritual growth and even our physical well being. Many of us are educated not only in an academic environment, but also outside the classroom by numerous educators throughout our lives. But the purpose of this study is not define education or the educator, but to simply see the educational part of our life experience as vital and necessary to our development.

The concept of being a "self-taught person" in any academic discipline or arena of study or practice is somewhat of a “half-truth” in almost every circumstance outside of the spectrum of the miraculous. When someone claims such a developmental process, what they are really saying is that they were educated in that arena by less conventional means that would normally apply to that.   

Let me illustrate this from a personal example in my own life. I consider myself to be a “self-taught” musician. My primary instruments are the bass guitar and the piano, or keyboards. Before I reached the age of 14, I took a limited amount of private lessons in either instrument. I never completed a work book or learning manual and didn't pursue these skills with more than a few one hour personal sessions with a skilled and accomplished instructor as an adolescent. Yet, through the last four decades of my life I have played as a paid musician on several recording album projects. I have performed on stage with many gifted and professional musicians and singers as both a keyboard artist and bass guitarist. And yet to this day I play the keyboards and guitar regularly at our church worship services.

Some might say that I just have a natural talent or ability in the arena and study of music. To some extent that is probably true. But, I also personally know that I was educated all along through various ways and means, or would not have advanced to the level of skill I display at this stage in my life. I learned how to become a more skilled musician by listening and observing other musicians in a non-formal educational and mentoring relationship.

This illustration and concept brings us to understand that there are two types of mentors. They would be classified as "Active Mentors" and "Passive Mentors". An active mentor is someone who is consciously aware of their participation in a mentoring relationship. A passive mentor is one who is not consciously aware of their role in a mentoring relationship. This is when a “mentoree” (the one being mentored) listens and observes the examples of the passive mentor from some sort of discernable distance even to the point that the passive mentor may not even be aware of his or her role as a mentor in someone's life experience.  

An active mentor is personally acquainted with the mentoree and actively builds the relationship intentionally and with a purpose. There is a definite recognizably and positive two way relationship between the mentor and the person being mentored (mentoree). On the other hand, the passive mentor may not even be aware that the mentoree exists. While the passive mentor may indeed actually be pursuing intellectual instruction as well as yielding high amounts of exemplary circumstances and situations in their personal and public life, the recognizable and positive two relationship between the mentor and the mentoree is not in existence. The obvious conclusion is that an active mentor can have more of a positive effective result in the mentoree's life and development than can the passive mentor. This is true even though both are very viable forms of mentoring relationships. We must also be certain to note that a mentoree may be mentored by an active mentor and several passive mentors at the same time.

Now let's define the "Mentoree", or the person who is being mentored. A mentoree is a person who receives both instruction and examples from a mentor for the reason of developing their desired skills and personal goals. Please note the two key components to this definition. They are "desired skills" and "personal goals". This would indicate that there must be some form of interest invested into the relationship by the mentoree. The mentoree must have a conscious desire to obtain and/or develop skills that they desire to have. This means that such desired skills and abilities may not be developed to a useable level or that they may not be fully developed in a productive sense. Thus, there is a need for the mentoring relationship and process to be a functioning part of their life in order to reach the goals of the mentoree. The mentoree must recognize and acknowledge this need for the mentoring process to be an effective tool in their life. 

Now let us bring specific attention to the word "desired" in this definition. The results of a mentoring relationship will be much more effective when the "desire" is originally generated from the mentoree. Eventually the active mentor may see the potential of the mentoree and build a desire to see the mentoree grow and succeed in their goals. But the ultimate energizing source should be the desire of the mentoree to learn and develop desired skills from the mentoring relationship. When this desire leans more on the side of the mentor instead of the mentoree, the effect of the relationship is almost always diminished to some extent.          

The last two definitions we should establish are those of "Mentoring" and the "Leader". The simple and short answer for the word mentoring is: the process of interaction between a mentor and a mentoree. The long answer we will unpack more in the next section of this course when we look at the qualities of an effective mentoring relationship.

Finally, for the sake of understanding specifically what we are talking about, let's define the word "Leader". A leader is someone who is interactively responsible for a specific group or institution which has qualified him or her to be in the position of the care and perpetuation of that group or institution. Developing this definition, we can see that a leader in their position, must assume an exceptional responsibility for the institution or group and must exercise care for and a desire for the perpetuation of that institution or group. A leader must make responsible decisions that show a genuine care for the well being of the group or institution. A leader must be authentically concerned for the perpetuation of what ever entity or group is being led. However, there are situations in leadership where a leader must know how to discern the termination of its leadership and/or the group he or she is leading.          

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