There are bosses. There are leaders. And then there are mentors.
Bosses thrive in the hierarchy of I-lead-you-follow factory–and sometimes sweatshop–environments. Redundancy, zero defect, and productivity are typical indicators of their workforce performance.
Leaders, meanwhile, are born to innovate and tend to be more goal-driven, results-oriented, people-empowering and have gone past the lip service mantra of “we are family” and “culture-building”. Creating shared value and high-performance service delivery are central to their governing policies, and their strategies build concrete and measurable programs that reward rather than punish.
Mentors create sparks. They illuminate, drive genuine trust, and inspire excellence. They build leaders, which is why true leaders are meant to mentor. They nurture knowledge and have applied it in the real world. They leave no room for echo chambers and mediocrity. Mentors demand only excellence, but they know it takes a rough stone before a diamond is born.
Just as patience makes a warrior, only experience builds a mentor. There is no faking or rushing one’s ability to teach and lead. All students of excellence must first struggle, falter and disappoint before they take their place in sharing, guiding and shaping the next students that they once were.
Not all companies get their share of leaders and mentors despite superficial claims to the contrary. Students who intend to grow know better when a once promising workplace starts to stifle their growth and becomes a career dead-end. No amount of cultural pretense, false philosophies and mediocre programs can deceive a true learner and future leader.
But there are other worlds where “padawans” are not seen as threats, but are embraced as future Jedis of change and innovation. In fact, an important highlight of their on-boarding process provides a glimpse of any of the following:
- Transparent performance-based career matrix
- Leadership training program
- 360-degrees mentoring evaluation
- Post-training feedback and support system
Unfortunately, not every company is receptive to such programs, caught up as they may be in their political cobwebs, organizational echo chambers, and overarching resistance to change. To them, every small move rocks the (sometimes already sinking) boat.
In the age of digital transformation, employee empowerment and global business, however, these old-school setups will have no choice but to disrupt themselves from organizational stagnancy, differentiate the way they operate…or risk permanent obsolescence.
Where companies truly value dignity, mutual respect and live out these values, an employee-first, mentoring leadership model is not so far-fetched. You see this delight:
- Manifest in ACTUAL relevant day-to-day benefits (and not just some “family culture” manifesto that is all paper talk),
- Transform into ACTUAL vertical and horizontal career paths (not a dead-end job), and
- Blossom into actual employee-focused engagement activities and 360-degrees empowerment programs (and not more of insecurity-driven back-scratching and -stabbing office politics).
In the end: Enlightened management –> empowered employees –> delighted customers –> happy investors –> prosperous business & society