Leader Pathways

The Life of Leading Greatly  
August 2010
  


Mentoring Leaders for Bold Tomorrows

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In this Issue:

Mentoring and Aspiration

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   Mentoring and Aspiration


Michael Shenkman There are many services out there these days that leaders can use to advance their careers. But we believe that only “leader mentoring” directs its attention to your aspirations. As you consider how to invest in advancing your leading, consider this: how do you align your leading with your aspirations? Leader mentoring as offered by the Arch of Leadership can help you do that.

Aspiration

What a strange thing aspiration is. Here is a longing and a yearning that burns so forcefully as to take command of one’s life, and yet with no promise of an assured outcome. Sometimes in fact an aspiration will be so diffuse that it does not even specify a goal; all it offers is the urge to sustain itself, a life of aspiring.

We can think of aspiration as flowing from the difference between the child and the adult. Seen in this light, aspiration has three sources: childhood and family dynamics; genetic formations of the psyche; and adult trauma. None of these factors necessarily give rise to the inception of aspiration. Instead, aspiration arises when those events are seen as opportunities.

As a child grows, what was once a fluid and open psyche, full of wonder, concentrates into an ego, dominated by customs and rules. The great and flowing expanse of the child’s psyche contracts and concentrates into “smaller” but more “effective and productive” concepts, categories directed toward specified interests and ambitions. The ego of the adult thus leaves behind a vacated “space.” Where once there was a realm filled with energy and activity, there remains only memories and diminished energy.

For most, that realm is so diminished that it exerts no force at all on the dominated, adult psyche. However, for some, the memory is kept in circulation by a reserve of energy that does not so easily dissipate. So, for these people, there remains in effect an “aural” realm that surrounds the functioning ego (and super-ego) that still exerts a pull and affects the functionally focused ego state of the adult.

Aspiration arises when this aura is allowed some leeway to affect the adult, making transformation possible and even desirable. When the aura is allowed such sway, all the events that promote aspiration take shape. One’s biography of a troubled or challenging childhood (and difficult parental influences) can become a story of the simple joys of daydreams, wanderings, experimenting excursions and burgeoning interests. One’s supposed weaknesses and confusions and difficulties at resolving seemingly impenetrable ambiguities can become gateways to one’s creative powers. Traumas have a way of loosening the grip of generalized convention and send a person into a deep self-examination for different sources of strength, into a resolute search for new pathways.

The Mentoring Moment

Here’s where leader mentoring comes in. The aspiring adult feels the pull of a great conflict. On the one hand, lurking in this person’s being is a call to something more expansive and more encompassing in his or her life. Yet, as an adult, this person is no longer amenable to the naively open wonder of the child, demanding instead competence and effectiveness in his/her functioning social, economic and historical world. The conflict stops movement in both directions: no longing, but no advancing of competence either. The person is stuck, in a quandary. To leave the aspiration behind seems to be a deep personal betrayal. But to act naively and precipitously seems irresponsible, if not downright idiotic.

The leader mentor forms a bridge between the two demands so that a person can commit to aspiration in a way that’s both competent and effective. How does the leader mentor do this? Simple: The mentor truly listens. The mentor takes the time to hear the yearnings that call out from that aura and validates them for the mentee. Then this mentor helps the mentee to envision a way of living that can viably answer the call. By listening, and in a lively and engaged silence, the leader mentor helps the mentee appreciate her aspiration and figure out a way to take it into her leading.

Note that it is not “strengths” and talents that are emphasized by a mentor. Paradoxically, it may seem, yet those very places, ways and states of being that are often decried as weaknesses or distractions from attaining one’s goals and ambitions become the places where aspirations can take hold. In the leader mentor’s eyes, what others might call “weakness” is, instead, the pulsing of those aspirations from this great aural realm. They are yearnings that have not yet hardened into imperatives. The leader mentor helps the aspirant firm up his or her “soft spots” into a vision so that they can become robust and resolute, and then become a project worthy of attracting followers.

The Companion to Aspiration’s Call

The result of a mentoring engagement is thus commitment. The silence of the mentor offers a safe place where the leader’s aspiration can be heard and then cultivated. With her mentor’s help, the mentee once again takes possession of a great spirit of aspiration and wonder that can then set out firmly, with self-trust and attentive responsibility, through the arches, and out into the life of leading,

At the Arch of Leadership, we are ready to be your leader mentor.

Help us! You can then say that you too joined forces to launch a new way to develop the aspiring leaders who bring us bold tomorrows. To learn more about how Arch can work with YOUR organization, contact me personally or visit our website.

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