It’s lonely at the top of the ladder.
When you started out in your career, there were plenty of people higher up on the corporate ladder than you. These were people who were doing what you wanted to do, who could show you how to get where you wanted to go.
If you were lucky, one of these people agreed to invest their time in you and became your mentor.
Even Experienced Leaders Need a Mentor
Plenty of studies have proven the benefits of mentoring for emerging leaders on the rise. Mentoring programs are increasingly available, providing new leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to grow, leading to greater job satisfaction and more rapid advancement.
But what happens when leaders reach a certain level of success?
Many leaders at the pinnacle of their careers find they’ve outgrown the mentoring that helped them get there. They may have reached a level where they can begin to mentor others — which provides great benefits for both the mentor and mentee — but this role reversal can give them the sense that they have transitioned beyond the need for a mentor of their own.
Even if they wish to continue a mentoring relationship, often there’s simply no one higher-up in their organization who can serve as their mentor.
But if you believe that a mentor only helps you climb higher, you’re missing out on the real benefits of leadership mentorship. The best leaders know they need to continually improve. A mentor can help you do just that.
If you’re a high-level executive, here are some signs you need mentoring:
- You feel lonely or isolated in your role.
- You’re having trouble making decisions.
- You're getting complacent or stagnant in your work.
- You’re feeling the pressure to carry the burden of responsibility alone.
- You’re beginning to think about your legacy; you don’t just want to be successful, you want to build something of significance.
- You have a commitment to lifelong learning, growth, and professional development.
How Experienced Leaders Benefit From Mentoring
Here are 10 reasons mentoring is important for leaders.
1. A Mentor Provides Encouragement and Support.
A mentor is someone who wants to see you succeed. You can trust that they have no ulterior motive or hidden agenda. They’re there to celebrate your wins and to help you regroup after your losses.
2. A Mentor is Someone You Can Trust.
As a leader, it’s risky to be too vulnerable about your shortcomings and fears within the boundaries of your organization. That’s why, for executives, an ideal mentor is someone outside your company — or even your industry — with whom you can be totally honest and transparent.
In his role as a CEO Mentor, Tom Brewer offers his mentees “the assurance that they are able to talk to him in confidence with trust and authenticity, knowing he is not a stakeholder or paymaster.”
3. A Mentor Helps You Make Better Decisions.
Leaders make crucial decisions that impact every employee in the organization. When faced with a difficult decision, you can bounce ideas off your mentor and get their insight. This can help you to challenge your thinking and sharpen your own decision-making skills.
A 2015 study published by HBR found that, of CEOs who engage in formal mentoring, 84% said their mentor helped them avoid costly mistakes. 69% also said they were making better decisions as a result of working with their mentor.
4. You Can Learn From Your Mentor’s Example.
High-level executives face a set of challenges unlike anything they’ve encountered on their way to the top. When you work with a mentor who has already been there, you get the benefit of learning from their real-world experiences. With their hard-earned wisdom and practical insight, you can avoid common pitfalls and follow in the footsteps of their successes.
CEO Mentor Gerrit Cormany explains that his role as a mentor is “not to give answers, but to ask questions and share lessons I’ve learned and mistakes I’ve made.”
5. A Mentor Can Double Your Capacity for Learning.
The right mentor can open your eyes to new ideas and areas of improvement you didn’t even know you needed. As CEO Mentor Gavin Kerr says in his 10 Leadership Lessons, “Great leaders and great people are always learning, always growing and always seeking to become their best selves.”
You and your mentor can discuss how to apply new insights and leverage industry trends. Knowledge shared is knowledge doubled.
6. You’ll Receive a Fresh Outside Perspective.
A good mentor can help you see your blind spots - both personally and professionally. They can see beyond “the way we’ve always done things” and offer ideas that may shake up the status quo - to the great benefit of your organization. If you’ve been feeling like you’re stuck in a rut, the fresh perspective offered by a mentor can breathe new life into your leadership role.
CEO Ryan Wall says of his CEO Mentor, Raymond Gleason, “[He] has stretched my thinking continuously for the last six years. He often challenges my comfort zones, therefore allowing me to really grow as a leader in life and work.”
7. A Mentor Provides Accountability.
Even the most driven individuals can face a disconnect between knowing what they need to do and actually doing it. We all have times where we need someone to hold our feet to the fire. You’re more likely to achieve your goals if you share them with someone else — especially if that person is already invested in your success. A mentor can provide the ultimate in accountability.
8. You and Your Mentor Have a Shared Experience.
A mentor is someone who can relate to your experiences. It can be refreshing to share the challenges of your organization with someone who understands the unique pressures of your role. Knowing you aren’t alone can be empowering.
9. You’ll Achieve Better Results.
With all of these benefits in play, you’ll improve as a leader. And when you’re at your best, the entire organization benefits. You’ll achieve greater team alignment, and together you’ll make better strategic decisions that propel you toward achieving your goals. All of this is good for the bottom line.
10. Your Mentor Can Help With Succession Planning.
No matter how much you love your career, eventually you’ll want to get off the ladder. A mentor can help you plan for what comes next. As CEO Mentor Daniel Harkavy points out, succession planning isn’t a sudden event, but “a proactive and systematic investment in building a pipeline of leaders within an organization, so that when transitions are necessary, leaders at all levels are ready to act.”
Your mentor can help you to begin preparing now for the legacy you want to leave behind.
How to Find the Right Leadership Mentor For You
Now, if you’re a leader who is sold on the benefits of a mentor, you may be wondering: where can I find one?
To begin, look outside your company — or, better yet, outside your industry. Retired executives are a great resource because they’ve experienced the complete life cycle of a leader and they usually have more time available to pour into others. Reach out to leaders you admire to ask for suggestions.
Even still, the search for the right mentor can be discouraging. Many executives who don’t luck their way into the right relationship simply don’t have the time to seek one out.
That’s why, at Building Champions, we offer CEO Mentoring — a fully customizable, concierge-style leadership mentoring program. With a team of former executives from a variety of industries, we can match you with someone who has the right mix of experience, insight, and commitment to your success.
The program is a personalized mix of phone conversations as well as in-person days for one-on-one coaching, observation, team development, executive retreat facilitation, and holistic feedback — all structured to work with your busy schedule. Contact us today to connect with a CEO Mentor or learn more.
The life of an executive is demanding. You might be alone at the top of your particular corporate ladder. But with the help and encouragement of a great mentor, it’s not so lonely after all.