It is said that all organizations rise or fall depending on the kind of leadership it has. This is what best-selling author and leadership guru John Maxwell refer to as the Law of the Lid. He explains this by saying that the growth potential of an organization depends on the leader. If the leader’s vision and abilities are high, the organization will likely grow by leaps and bounds. However, if the leader is weak and incompetent, the organization will most likely fail. But what kind of leader do successful, growing organizations have?
There are top-down leaders who practice strict heirarchy. They work in established power structures. Similar to a military force, these kinds of leaders are often authoritarian, non-inclusive, and exercise command where full and immediate obedience is expected.
Another type of leadership is referred to as Mentoring Leadership. A leader-mentor is similar to those who are involved in very personal or intimate disciple-making movements. They are often involved in the lives of their followers, extending to them a close psychological, social, and emotional bond. To better understand this type of leadership and management style, it is good to look at its features.
The Mentor-leader Is Accessible
The foremost quality of a leader-mentor is accessibility. He is not living in a high tower that no one can reach. At work, he is easily approached by anyone without any fear or apprehension. The reason why the leader-mentor deliberately makes himself or herself accessible is that he does not subscribe to the Machiavellian principle which says that “it is better to be feared than to be loved”. For this type of leader, his role is to set the direction, clarify objectives and methods, and show the right example to followers. If he or she is not seen nor heard from, there is practically no one leading the organization. In military circles, this is what is referred to as “leading from the front”. By always being visible and accessible, the leader inspires trust and confidence among the rank-and-file. This accessibility also paves the way for the creation of a true professional and personal relationship.
The Mentor-Leader is Willing to Share
Another quality of this leader is the willingness to share, teach, and guide. These three acts are probably what lies at the heart of Mentor-Leadership. As the senior or superior, he or she is always willing to share knowledge, experience, and insights to juniors or followers. Wisdom is built only after a long period of time and is often the result of both victories and defeats, accomplishments, and mistakes. This willingness to share also entails the voluntary act of opening up one’s self, being vulnerable, and having the humility to admit to being imperfect as a leader. In many situations, the mentor needs to share to a mentee his or her own errors and failings at work as well as in personal life. Doing this comes with genuine humility and candor, traits that are hard to maintain for leaders who unnecessarily emphasize ego and imagined reputation.
The Mentor-leader Values Individuality
A good trait of a mentor-leader is being sincere in valuing individuality. As a leader, he understands his role as a guide but never overestimates his importance to the organization and to the next generation of leaders. He or she values the unique background, experiences, talents, and potential of a young group of leaders. In short, there is no effort in trying to make “clones” or “yes men”, which is actually a serious mistake. Any successful organization finds strength in unity but not at the expense of freedom of exchange of ideas. People in a group, company, or corporation must be allowed to express themselves and contribute ideas whether they are in an official supervisory role or rank-and-file employees. Often, companies that do not allow their people to voice out opinions or suggestions leave the leadership blindsided and ineffective. But when a mentor-leader empowers everyone to speak, he or she benefits by gaining information from all sides of an issue or concern. This leads to sound decision-making because all points and angles have been considered instead of being chained to a narrow- view from a limited number of advisers.
The Mentor-leader Manages a System and Leads People
A vital trait of a Mentor-Leader is his ability to distinguish management from leadership. For this kind of leader, management is all about the system and its various components. It may be about analyzing the performance of machines; making an assessment about production quality in a factory; or studying the details of a financial report or policy proposal. In contrast, the Mentor-Leader knows that leadership is about positively influencing the people who execute those business systems and components. Management is for systems and policies while leadership is all about people.
These are only a few of the characteristics of a Mentor-Leader and it is also true that there are intangibles in leadership such as charisma, mystique, or appeal. But for the most part, effective Mentor-Leadership can be studied, learned, and applied to any business that wants to be successful.