The 3 Mentors Every Effective Leader Needs

Learning is a big deal to me.  This is probably because I realize how much I lack.  If I am going to be faithful as a christian leader with what God has entrusted to me, then each day is an opportunity to hone and sharpen the gifts I have.  The same holds true for you.  However, this is not something that can be accomplished alone.

I’ve already written quite a few posts about learning on this blog.  I’ve created a book list to pass on, listed distant mentors of mine, and and reminded people that leaders are learners.

This past week I sat down to make my weekly Friday morning phone call to one of my spiritual mentors.  Right before I called him, a feeling of gratitude came over me.  I was so thankful to be able to call this man, a retired pastor from Houston, who just overflows with wisdom every time we talk.  I always leave our conversations challenged and encouraged in my relationship with Christ.

The christian life was meant to be lived in the context of community.  Without it, our soul withers.

In their book, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed In Life, Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton discuss the need for everyone to be in mentoring relationships.

A growing leader needs a relational network that embraces mentors, peers, and emerging leaders in order to ensure development and a healthy perspective on his or her life and ministry” (Stanley 1992, 159).

When I was younger, I thought this was one of those “to-do’s” in christianity.  I saw it as some sort of spiritual discipline.  As I’ve gotten older, I realize it is something I need.  In fact, I’ve noticed all the leaders I respect eagerly seek out others to learn from.

As I read through their book, though, I was fascinated at a model they described as the “Constellation Model” of mentoring.  In this model, they describe how every leader needs 3 different mentors.  They are:

Upward Mentor – We are probably most familiar with this idea.  The upward mentor is the one we can go to in order to receive direction or perspective.  This type of mentor is sought out through various times of transition (as in my case right now), or just for the periodic spiritual checkup and insights gained from a broader perspective.

Downward Mentor – Downward mentoring is the way we help younger leaders develop their capacity, commitment and values that enables them to serve God faithfully.  Inevitably, I learn much through the process as well.  There is something about getting my eyes off my own needs, and seeking to serve someone else that brings a greater clarity to complex issues.

Lateral Mentor – I thought I had created this concept some time back.  I referred to a few people around me as “mutual mentors.”  We would get together, and split time teaching each other something.  Little did I know there had been much written on this subject under the heading of “co-mentors,” “peer mentors” or “lateral mentors.”  The idea is one in the same.  A few examples of lateral mentoring for me:

Parenting & Technology – I’ve met with a guy a few times to discuss parenting with him.  He is a young father with a growing family.  I have discussed with him the role of father in the family.  In return, he has drilled me full of technological knowledge.  From iphone to Mac questions, he has been a great resource.

Public Speaking & Gen Y Issues – A young leader asked me to mentor him about public speaking.  He was trying to develop more of a presence on stage, as well as beginning to get his feet wet developing messages for audiences.  I gladly met with him, but it wasn’t for free.  I asked him many questions about how he thought.  Gen Y, or the digital generation – as Apple would call it – go about life differently than I do.  They also think about life through a different lens.  I was curious to understand it more.  Our time was very beneficial for both of us.

Carpentry & Efficiency – I like to do projects around the house.  In fact, I’ve built 2 houses for my family.  I’ve helped a guy learn more about framing houses, basic electrical work, and questions related to his sprinkler system.  In return, he has taught me a lot about creating better systems to get tasks done quickly.

Do you have mentors?  If so, what do you find most valuable in those relationships?

Don’t miss any posts here at Following To Lead.  Subscribe today, or go to the right-hand side of this page, enter your email, and click subscribe there.

Comments

  1. Dave Anderson February 20, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    I do have mentors of all three kinds. The upward and the downward mentors are the most valuable to me.

    I find most people seek out the lateral mentors. But, lots of time the advice they are getting are from people at the exact same stage of life as they are.

    That is like being on a country road with a friend for the first time for both of you. If another person comes around the corner heading towards you, who is more likely to know what potholes are around that corner? The guy walking beside you, or the guy who has already been down that road knows the challenges to navigate.

    I say this because of all the age specific small groups that tend to be the norm in our churches today: Singles, Young Marrieds, Parents of Pre-schoolers, Empty Nesters, etc.

    Why do we want advice from people who have not yet travelled the road we are on? Find people who have been where we want to go, and ask them for directions….

  2. Sharon February 20, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    These days I’m constantly at my computer because I’m taking an online leadership class towards a ministry requirement. I found your blog about 2 weeks ago and I absolutely love the areas that you are sharing.

    Mentoring was the beginning requirement for my ministry course. This morning during time in the Word, I felt as though the Lord was encouraging me to mentor a younger woman both from a spiritual perspective but also in a professional connection.

    How do work the time commitment to make these mentoring relationships work and still stay on board with tasks related to ministry?

    • Dave Anderson February 21, 2012 at 6:19 am #

      Sharon,
      As a guy who has been chairman of the elder board at our church, I can tell you that people in ministry need to prioritize this in their lives. The isolation that can occur for someone in ministry because they are constantly emptying themselves into others puts them in a vulnerable state.

      Honestly, all of us only have 24 hours in a day. So when I claim a time issue, it rarely is that. It turns out to be a priority issue. We have time for what we prioritize. But you can’t continually add things to your to do list and say you are focused. When you add, you must drop something. If everything is a priority, then nothing is.

      If mentoring is important enough, then drop something of lesser value.