Leadership Skills to Look for in a Mentor

In this article, we take a look at leadership qualities to look for in a mentor.

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Mentors can be a valuable asset when it comes to learning more about your chosen career path and growing as a professional. Important though mentors are, however, a good one can be hard to find. It’s not just about identifying someone who has achieved your goals — though this is an important element of finding a good mentor.

Your mentor needs to be able to teach and lead in a way that will be most productive for you. In this article, we take a look at qualities to look for in a mentor.

1. Relevant Experience

When looking for a mentor, the first thing you want to do is identify what qualities you are hoping to encounter. What kind of experiences will your ideal mentor have had? Keep in mind that having a successful career within the industry you are interested in may not be enough of a background to justify entering a mentorship.

Instead, look for someone who has experienced the specific achievements you hope to acquire yourself. The more closely aligned your chosen mentor’s path is with your own, the more likely it will be that they can advise you.

2. A Willingness and Ability to Share

You know the reluctant mentor trope that’s so prevalent in television and film? Think Yoda, in the swampy marshes of Dagaba, entirely disinterested in training Luke until he is convinced by the ghostly spectre of Obi Won.

Well. In real life, you’re probably best advised not to seek out hermits—particularly bearing in mind that you won’t be able to depend on the recommendation of ghosts when it comes to persuading them to help you.

You want a mentor who is excited to share their expertise. In essence, this is a teacher-student relationship. Look for someone who not only has the background experience you are looking for, but also the skills to communicate that experience in a way that is instructional and productive.

3. Active Engagement with Your Industry of Choice

It’s also a good idea to find someone who is actively involved in the industry you are hoping to work in. While a retiree may seem in essence like the perfect mentor — having experienced a career in its entirety-there are cons to working with someone no longer in the industry.

Namely? Their information will inevitably be outdated.

Technology is changing every field at a rapid clip. A novice marketer can hardly expect to get the best guidance from someone who doesn’t know what Twitter is.

Ideally, your mentor will have plenty of experience, while also remaining active enough in your chosen field to help you understand its most current trends.

4.Time and the Ability to Manage It

Naturally, even the best mentor in the world won’t do you much good if they don’t have any free time. You need to find someone who will be able to regularly get together with you to offer feedback and support.

Ideally, they will also have the ability to manage that time effectively. Can they be a good mentor in thirty minutes at your local coffee shop? If not, they might not be a great fit for you.

5. Leadership Style that Compliments Yours

It’s a good idea to look for a mentor who displays the leadership skills you would like to one day have. There are many different styles of leadership, all valid in their own way. They are also all quite distinct. Ideally, you will be able to find a mentor who leads in a way that you would one day like to.

6. Respectful But Honest

Another mentor trope: the grumpy teacher, highly critical, short-tempered moody, but with a heart of gold buried somewhere deep beneath the scowl.

You’re a working person. You don’t have time to excavate someone’s soul looking for a bit of kindness.

You want a friendly mentor. However, you also need someone who is capable of being honest. To that end, you should think about what sort of feedback is most productive for you. Do you want criticism to be highly sugar coated, or do you work best with blunt statements of fact?

Even a highly skilled mentor might not be the right fit for you if their style of delivering feedback isn’t compatible with your personality.

7. Connections


Strictly speaking, the mentor-mentee dynamic is all about guidance and education. All other qualities are gravy. That said, if you can find a mentor with professional connections that can be of benefit to you, it’s all the better.

Networking is one of the quickest and most effective ways to advance professionally. While there are many ways to network, having an advocate who can speak to your specific set of skills may be one of the most effective ways to acquire professional connections.

This article was guest written by Andrew Deen.

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