This past month, I was interviewed by Nonprofit Communications Report for an article they were planning on mentoring. When they learned that our passion at Arch is "leader mentoring," they found the concept so compelling that they decided to scrap their original article focus and devote the entire space to a discussion of our Arch leader mentoring principles.
Here is a preview of their interview with me, featuring my verbatim responses to their questions:
Please explain the concept of “leader mentor.”
Mentoring is an age old process by which initiates are ushered into the esoteric ways of the arts and other creative practices. Mentoring differs from instruction, teaching and coaching in that it emphasizes not talents and skills that are used in executing a project, but the qualities and values of life that are needed to sustain oneself in the creative endeavor. It is a manner of both exemplifying a way of life and testing the initiate in those ways. From mentoring, the master determines whether or not the initiate has a chance of succeeding in this life.
“Leader mentoring” focuses on the creative aspects of leading. Leading often involves a lot of drudgery, but at its core it is a creative force in our lives. Leading brings into existence more expansive and encompassing, and more satisfying and sustaining ways for people to engage with each other and their natural environments.
The mentoring process used by the Arch of Leadership thus focuses on those qualities and values which specifically pertain to sustaining and thriving in a life of leading, and leading creatively. We help young managers to recontextualize their successes and failures so as to see how they contribute or detract from their leading. We work with them to grow beyond notions of being “self confident,” so as to have, instead, self-trust: the resolve to move ahead despite doubts, and then learn from the experience. And we also help them to see themselves as others see them, and so create a “leader brand” by means of which followers can trust who it is they have freely chosen to bring into their lives as a leader.
How does this process benefit those considering a leadership role?
It drives a wedge between leading and managing. Managing is a critical part of any organization. Setting goals and deadlines, measuring, disseminating information, evaluating against benchmarks are all necessary organizational functions. But they are not leading. Due to the need for managers in businesses, managerial tasks have been given the name “leading,” and especially at high, executive levels, these tasks are mistaken for leading. Thus highly placed executives often mistakenly envision themselves as being leaders because they have the title. Mostly this is not the case.
Leading entails moving people to new horizons, where they have never been before. It means embodying a vision that is made irresistible, even before it is accomplished. Leading requires courage and asks for courage, and even the goals, from day to day, might not be clear. Leading entails enacting how and why a particular set of values in a certain way is necessary for fulfilling that vision. Leading is taking responsibility for opening and expanding people’s lives – not (just) getting the job done at any and all cost (although that demand is sometimes essential as well).
Our work enables prospective leaders to measure themselves against those personal and inspirational imperatives, and not just against achievement or against operational objectives and bottom line results. Mind you, these latter are not neglected, but they happen almost secondarily, they fall out of what the leader encourages people to be passionate about. They happen because people in the organization, under great leading, are determined to put the vision into the world as a result of their collaboration.
How could this new concept of mentoring serve member organizations (nonprofits/associations)? What would be the benefits for these types of organizations?
This concept is the bottom line, the sine qua non of accomplishing anything great in the non-profit or profit or completely collegial setting. The benefit is that everyone sees how they are part of something that matters; and they are engaged in something that makes them feel connected and alive.
And so, the impossible gets done.
How could an organization go about practicing this concept?
There is no magic here. Leaders are valued, mentored and encouraged in well LED organizations. The leader of an organization needs to cultivate his or her own mentors, engage in learning and expansive practices of a personal kind that open new vistas. Then this leader needs to mentor others. No mentors, no leaders. Period.
Sometimes leaders complain that they don’t have the time for this kind of thing. So be it. But don’t expect the vision to take root in the world either.
Leading is a creative discipline not far from that of the arts. Any artist has to practice, learn, engage with teachers and learned people if their art is not to lapse into technique or mass production. The leader has to do the same if his or her work isn’t to lapse into functional management, rote and mindless production and repetition.
Again, there is no magic. A leader has to do the work of leading; she has to keep learning, she has to mentor other prospective leaders. She has to decide, each day, if leading is truly her calling. If the answer is yes, then she has to step into that role without reservation, with self-trust, and live the life of leading. Such a leader, as we like to say in the Arch of Leadership, is “bold and authentic; engaged and effective.”
For more info, visit www.archofleadership.com.