Two things that are always true about good leaders are: “Leaders are learners” and “Leaders can’t help themselves but to help other people.” This is very evident when a leader begins the mentoring process with a young leader. It is never a one-way deal because both are learners and both want to help other people. This is a natural affinity that draws leaders together. I call this “Mutual Mentoring”. Both parties are learning from and helping each other. The Apostle Paul is an example of this.
For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (Romans 1:11-12 NLT)
Mentoring is a risky deal. Only confident and secure leaders mentor younger leaders. The process of mentoring allows someone else to observe our habits and practices, both good and bad. Leadership is complex and at times the responsibilities are overwhelming. Leaders are not always on their “’A’ game” and can find themselves failing to practice what they preach. There are days that I look in the mirror and say: “You are a lousy leader”.
I like letting young leaders observe both my good days and my bad days as a leader. I let them know they are going to have good days and bad days, too. The young leaders I mentor help me through my bad days…that’s what leaders do. We walk through life and leadership together, learning and lifting as we go. Mutual mentoring brings mutual growth.
Mentoring keeps me sharp and gives me energy. I love working with younger leaders. I learn amazing things from them and they challenge the way I think and dream. In most cases young leaders don’t have much to lose, so they just go after their dreams with gusto and boldness. As we get older and more established, we have so much more at risk if the pursuit of our dream fails. This is where young leaders stretch my faith. Considering what I might lose should never keep me from being obedient to what God is calling me to do.
Let me encourage you to seek out mutual mentoring relationships with both older and younger leaders. Iron sharpens iron. What you read and who you spend time with will do more to shape the impact of your leadership than anything else. Read God’s word, read great books, spend time with the Lord, and hang out with established leaders and potential leaders and you will stay sharp.
Mutual mentoring has mutual benefits now that also extend into the next generation of leaders. Take time today to identify those leaders and potential leaders that God has brought into your life. Just simply take the time to experience the ups and downs of life and leadership together.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~ John C. Crosby