|The ultimate responsibility|
Kamran Rizvi, Navitus
Developing future leaders is the ultimate responsibility of a leader, whether s/he happens to be in a corporation, a voluntary organization or in government. This is how societies and organizations have evolved and developed through the ages.
It helps us to know and ardently believe that leaders are made, not born. You can argue all you like about this point, but in the end it will always be a question of how effective an individual has been in achieving goals in a particular set of circumstances, particularly where there were plenty of constraints, and tough choices needed to be made. No one who wishes to lead a life of purpose is exempt from being result-oriented. However, whether someone chooses to assume the ultimate responsibility of leadership or not is another matter.
Developing future leaders is the ultimate responsibility of a leader, whether s/he happens to be in a corporation or in government. This is how societies and organizations have evolved and developed through the ages. Lee Iacocca amplifies this idea succinctly, “The job of a leader is to accomplish goals that advance the common good. Anyone can take up space. Here’s is the test of a leader: When he leaves office, we should be better off than when he started. It’s that simple.”
The field of leadership is wide open and anyone wanting to make a difference can claim it. It is well known that leadership is not only the top position in any organization or in government; it is expressed in families; in classrooms; in sports; in politics; in farms; in arts; and at every level in the corporate environment, indeed in all fields of human endeavor. This fact provides us with a huge opportunity to identify and develop talent around us.
Developing people involves coaching and/or mentoring. However, it is important for you to know the difference. Coaching is primarily about helping people see and do things differently in a given set of tasks – whether in sports or business. It is usually focused on improving skills that are needed for the job at hand. The immediate boss is normally the coach. Whereas mentoring deals with the development of the ‘whole’ person. It is about investing in human potential where its major significance and relevance is to the organization and the protégé. A mentor need not be the immediate boss, but someone high up in the organization that a potential protégé trusts, can easily relate to, admires and would like to learn from. This is one reason why formal mentoring programs do not work as protégés are usually assigned to mentors. Attempts to match mentor to protégé may not always yield the right ‘fit’.
If done right, mentoring offers you a way to have an enduring positive impact as a leader. It enables you to consciously contribute towards building leadership in your organization and/or community for the coming times. This is how you can move your organization away from a personality-driven culture towards a more institutionalized way of working, where principles, rather than personalities, guide policies, processes, everyday decisions and actions at all levels.
To be effective as a mentor you need to keep reminding yourself that everyone around you is potentially a leader. Even though this is true, not everyone is equally keen to develop to the standards you seek. Therefore, your key challenge will lie in devoting your time on people who are genuinely interested and are committed to grow and contribute and indeed, also want to learn from you! This takes generosity of heart, plenty of patience and a deep-seated love for people.
Ram Charan, a renowned author and consultant who taught management at Harvard, informs us that “in 2005, a $20 billion company underwent a major reorganization, and one of the senior executives approached the CEO to tell him a portion of the executive's new job really should belong to someone else.”
“What was he thinking? He was in a horse race to succeed the CEO and already had the smallest scope of all his peers and fellow contenders for the top job. Under those circumstances, many leaders would try to expand their span of control. But he believed the organization would work better if certain areas went to someone else.”
“This leader was not naïve or un-ambitious. It's just that he truly wanted the business to succeed. Of course he hoped that his thinking would be recognized and appreciated. When his boss and the board get close to the succession decision, no doubt they'll remember that this person revealed he's not a greedy empire builder.”
“Caring about the good of the organization can mean ceding a portion of your span of control, voluntarily agreeing to cut back on projects in order to meet a budget goal, or sharing part of your leadership responsibilities with an up-and-coming leader who needs a development opportunity.”
“It might also mean giving up valued team members who would better serve the organization in a different capacity. In today's global organization, letting go of good people is almost an imperative.”
Are you willing to let go some of the powers you enjoy? Let’s explore mentoring more deeply. The Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide." Think about it. If you are not perceived in this way by aspiring leaders in your organization or family, it’s pointless for you to pursue mentoring, unless, you are prepared to take the bold steps needed to improve your image.
According to Encarta Dictionary, the word men’tor (noun) means a teacher and protector of Telemachus. in Homer’s Odyssey, the friend whom Odysseus left in charge of the household while he was at Troy and who was the teacher and protector of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. A mentor is also described as an experienced adviser and supporter, somebody, usually older and more experienced, who provides advice and support to, and watches over and fosters the progress of, a younger, less experienced person.
As you may have gathered by now, leaders like you can use mentoring as a tool in your organizations to nurture and grow your people. Whether you elect to use this tool formally or informally, the process involves the protégés observing, questioning, and exploring, while you as mentors demonstrate, explain and model desired behaviors.
As a mentor you can ensure learning takes place through methods such as profiling experiences, modeling and advising. You can share your "how to do it so it achieves desired outcomes" stories. You can also include experiences of your failure/s, ie., "how I made that mistake and what I learned from it". Both types of stories are powerful lessons that provide valuable opportunities for analyzing individual and organizational realities.
It will soon become evident to you that mentoring is a kind of a joint venture – a partnership - between you and your protégé. It’s a two-way process and needs an open flow of communication between both parties. Your protégé must be as eager and willing as you are in the learning process. In this context, personal scenarios and anecdotes offer valuable insights. You can end up becoming a ‘learning leader’ when you talk about yourself and your experiences candidly to establish a rapport with your mentees. Your frank, open and honest sharing of personal events in your life will be reciprocated by your protégé. And when this happens, its time for you to listen intently and empathetically.
Through mentoring you can trigger the spirit of continuous learning in the protégé and indeed, in yourself! Learning will cease to be just an event, or even a string of discrete events. Instead it will become the synthesis of deep reflection and analysis of ongoing experiences and observations.
In your desire to guide, it is vital for you to resist the temptation to keep telling your protégé what to do. Instead, facilitate the process through questioning that will help the protégé find his/her own directions and strategies. A client of mine regularly used a tool he called “19Qs” when commencing a mentoring relationship. “19Qs” refer to the following 19 questions he had formulated
Answers to such questions will help you compare your perspectives with those of your protégé’s. A constructive and mutually rewarding relationship can bloom thereafter.
Responsibility for learning needs to be shared between you and your mentee, regardless of the facilities, the subject matter, the timing, and all other variables. A meaningful mentoring experience begins with setting and agreeing an explicit contract for learning around which you, your protégés, and their respective line managers are aligned.
If you are not developing leaders for tomorrow you are missing the point.
 Where Have All The Leaders Gone? By Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney. Scribner, 2007. p.23
 What every company should know. An article by Ram Charan that appeared on Yahoo Business – Dec 7, 2006.