By Jordan Hunt, May 30, 2017
The goal of any professional is to be better, to increase in knowledge of their field, to be the best (fill in the blank) that they can be. The exact route that people may take to achieve this may vary, but there are a few important factors that are vital. The first is to study. To research and acquire knowledge of the field. This usually takes the form of time at a university. Another important factor is personal experience. You must become a participant within the field to gain first-hand experience. Lastly, on top of personal experience, it is also important to take advantage of other peoples’ experiences. This usually comes in the form of a mentor. This mentor is usually a person that has gone down a similar path as yourself. He or she has faced similar hardships and pursued similar goals as yourself.
The importance of this type of relationship cannot be understated. In my opinion, human progress in its basest form is represented by this type of relationship. The pouring into of one person by another is critical to growth as a person and professional. It is in the very nature of knowledge to be passed on and shared. So as one generation of professionals mentors the next, that field continues to progress and develop.
The largest obstacle to these mentoring relationships is likely knowing how to find and establish the relationship. The first step is determining what you would be seeking out of the mentoring relationship. Is there specific field you are interested in or a certain curiosity you would like to nurture? Once you have an idea of what you would like to gain from the relationship, use this to help determine possible mentors. The next step is to be proactive in establishing a mentor relationship. Actively pursue discussions with possible mentors and explicitly request guidance in certain areas.
One area in particular that can benefit from a mentor is leadership. One trait that is addressed by the article on collaborative leadership is awareness. Firstly, self-awareness, the knowledge of oneself, is vital in a strong leader. Being aware of your own strengths allows a leader to apply themselves where they can best benefit the team while awareness of your weaknesses reminds them to utilize the strengths of others. Next, a leader must be aware of those he is leading. In order to form the optimal team, you must have the right people in the right places. To do this, a leader must be aware of the individual strengths and weaknesses of his team. Finally, due to the increased globalization of businesses a leader must have cultural awareness. That is, a leader must be sensitive to the differences between cultures and alter his leadership strategy based on these differences. The manner in which feedback should be delivered is an example of something that leaders should be culturally aware of. Whether or not to address an issue directly or indirectly and even the way that feedback should be phrased varies greatly between cultures. A leader that is responsible for individuals from various cultures should be aware of these differences in order to communicate effectively with all members of the team.