Having a mentor can make a big difference in your career success. Although mentors often have formal leadership roles, mentoring is not necessarily confined to those who are formal leaders. Some see the two roles as separate, while others feel that mentoring is an integral part of the leadership role. Mentors and leaders may share some characteristics, but they also have differences. Mentors may have formal reporting relationships with their proteges or they may work outside of the organization.
Managers, Executives, Leaders and Mentors
Although the terms may sometimes be used interchangeably, Certified Personnel Consultant Daniel C. Simmons notes on his organization’s website that some differences exist. Managers and executives have administrative responsibility in an organization. A leader may have a similar role, but can also be a person whom others follow whether or not the leader holds a formal management role. Mentors, on the other hand, are experienced, trusted advisors who train and counsel new employees or students. The mentoring role, according to Simmons, occurs as people evolve from being managers to leaders or leader/mentors. The mentor exercises control by counseling and empowering employees to become leaders themselves and by providing a role model to encourage a passion for excellence.
Leadership and Mentoring Behavior
Mentors and leaders share certain behavioral characteristics, according to a presentation at the February 2009 American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences Conference. A global vision of the organization and the world outside of the organization are necessary for both leaders and mentors. In addition, leaders and mentors must both be able to share that vision in a way that inspires and encourages others to perform. Leaders and mentors must also be role models, who demonstrate the behavior they encourage in their daily activities. Both should have professional standing in the community and experience in networking. The paper’s authors, Mark Schoaf and Margaret M. Britt, see mentoring as inextricably entwined with leadership.
Formal Mentoring Programs
In some organizations, the senior leaders choose to implement formal mentoring programs, according to Michael Burcham, president and CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Unlike informal mentoring, which can grow from a casual business or professional relationship, Burcham notes that formal programs are structured, have oversight and should have clear, specific organizational goals. For example, mentors can help define professional behavior for new employees or help new graduates become a part of the organization. Formal mentoring programs can assure that key skills and knowledge are passed on from more experienced staff to younger employees. Such programs can also help develop leadership and customer service skills while enhancing staff retention.
Supervision and Reporting Relationships
One major difference between leaders and mentors is the issue of supervision and reporting relationships. A leader is often in a supervisory position and the protege may report directly to her. This kind of role means that the leader has the ability to influence behavior through financial rewards, or holds the ability to promote within the organization. A mentor, however, may not be the protege's supervisor, may not hold a supervisory position at all and may not even be a member of the organization. An article in the summer 2013 issue of "Education Libraries" notes that in a school librarian degree program, the mentors were formally assigned to the protege, but were members of entirely different organizations.
- Continental Search Outplacement, Inc.: The Difference Between a Manager, a Leader, and a Mentor
- American Society of Business and Behavioral Sciences Conference: Leadership and Mentoring - How Different Are They?
- Education Libraries: The Role of Mentoring in the Leadership Development of Pre-Service School Librarians
- MichaelBurcham.com: Mentoring Young Leaders
- Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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