By Bonnie Gorbaty, Senior Mentor and Vice-President,
Arch of Leadership
Twenty years ago, I found myself on the cutting edge of a new development in executive consulting – what came to be called “coaching.” I feel I am there again at the cutting edge of the next step in developing leaders. We in Arch of Leadership call it “professional leader mentoring” and it is unleashing renewed power from our leaders.
In the early 1980s, I found myself doing one-on-one work with my clients as a way to help them stay committed to the personal development program they bought from me. On one occasion, a stockbroker client looked me in the eye and said, “You know who you remind me of... my football coach.”
That was the first time I ever thought of my consulting role as being that of a coach to senior executives. I would go on to do my master’s thesis on “The Role of the Manager as Coach.” The key to the success of the coach was this: offer a clear methodology so that the client can adopt it and use it to improve performance.
In 2005, I began to offer my clients the Arch of Leadership Mentoring Program. Since I still do professional executive coaching, I can say that mentoring does not replace coaching. Mentoring is the next step, however, for executives who are ready to take charge of all aspects of leading and to fully embrace leading as their own way of life.
Harvard Business Review articles over the past few years have showcased titles such as “Developing the Leader Within” that validate the idea of taking coaching one step further. Mentoring is that next step in leader development. Arch of Leadership mentors provide occasions for our clients to find, articulate and shape their own way to great leading.
The feedback I am hearing from my mentees — experienced and successful entrepreneurs and executives all — confirms that this personal, self-trusting approach shines new light on their own aspirations to lead, and is truly the next step for them. Mentoring allows them to access more of who they already are, and they do this work in their own way. The leader they become reflects and projects the person they really are, and expresses what comes from the core of their own lives — not what a coach, book, or program prescribes.
In our first community-based Arch of Leadership mentoring program in Boston, we found that prospects quickly resonated with our proposition. They relished the opportunity to be guided and supported through a self-directed journey of self-discovery. In contrast to traditional leader development, our approach suggests that leading is about who a person is and how he or she commits to an authentic and self-aware life that can engage others in large, collaborative efforts.
We encourage our leaders to look at what we call “Skills of Character.” We help our aspiring leaders connect to the stories of their own lives, the ones that most resonate with what they value in themselves and in living the life of leading. Our mentors engage in deep listening, and in the process of this intense communication, the mentees articulate the experiences they have had that most strengthen their own self-trust. Then, by defining, building, and reinforcing their self-trust, our mentees arrive at their leader brand.
The leader brand, which defines leading for the leader and his or her followers, is personal, authentic, and comes entirely from within. Mentees not only learn “how to lead,” but how to grow into whatever challenges their leading presents to them. One of my mentees, who is experiencing her third recession as the owner of a staffing company, commented: “this is the first recession that I am leading my organization through.”
So leader mentoring goes one step beyond coaching for improved performance and getting results. My mentees are finding within themselves their own commitment to leading. They discover how they are truly “Creative Leaders who commit their lives to transforming expansive, encompassing possibilities into realities by creating followers — people who freely devote their energies and talents in a collaborative effort — and guiding their experiences as they strive toward their goal.”
And with that discovery also comes the appreciation for the value of mentoring: the leader mentoring that brought them to that commitment, and mentoring they will seek out in the future and the mentoring they will offer others throughout their lives of leading.