Five Things You Need, to Learn From the Wisdom of Others

some wisdom must thou learn from one who i wise, Euripides quote

Some wisdom must thou learn from one who is wise. Euripides

The need for mentors is well known. Yet, I am still surprised at how many leaders do not have mentors. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, for there are a few conditions that must be in place for a mentoring relationship to happen.

You need enough perspective to know how much you don't know. Distortion bias works against us. Our natural tendency is to "spin the facts about ourselves to the positive." We think we are a good deal smarter and more competent than we are. The paradox is this: we don't even know how much we don't know. Lacking the awareness of proper perspective works against mentoring relationships even beginning.


You need enough humility to be open and teachable to learning from others what you don't know. Now, really great mentoring invites the mentee into the conversation as one who takes full responsibility for the learning process. Vigorous and even fierce dialog is the stuff of great mentoring. But all of that is undergirded by a humility that places you in a receptive mode. 


You need enough confidence to enter into the challenging, "out of your comfort zone" conversations that occur in good mentoring. Prepare to be challenged. Prepare to be "put in your place." Not because of power plays by the mentor. Growing self-awareness "puts us in our place." From time to time I had those conversations that suddenly, insight emerged and I was exposed. If you are insecure, if your ego is fragile, and your esteem shaky, you won't take the risk of learning how much you don't know. One of the GREAT illustrations of this in in Baggar Vance, when Juno (Matt Damon) finally surrenders to Baggar (Will Smith). That was the moment when his real learning began. 


You need enough trust to place yourself into and under the guidance,tutelage, and care of another person. Yes, caution is needed in finding a good mentor. Once you have found that person, trust makes learning possible. True mentoring is very altruistic. The Mentor Agenda is simply this: I am here to help you grow. When you know that is true, you can entrust yourself to another.


You need enough initiative to go and find mentors. I have NEVER had a single mentor approach me and offer their services. But, I have had many mentors. Why? Because I found good people who knew a lot more than I did, and I asked them to mentor me. I never had a single NO. The old saying goes like this: "Help will always be offered to those who ask." I think you will find that "the teacher appears when the student is ready." The sovereign God opens doors, prepares the way and brokers the relationship. But knocking, walking and asking is required of you. Right now, who would you like to have as a mentor? What are you waiting for? Go ask them?


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International