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Why leaders need a mentor too

14 September 2021 at 11:53 am
Maggie Coggan
It’s a tough job leading an organisation, but getting yourself a mentor can help.

Maggie Coggan | 14 September 2021 at 11:53 am


Why leaders need a mentor too
14 September 2021 at 11:53 am

It’s a tough job leading an organisation, but getting yourself a mentor can help.

Overseeing a team of staff and keeping an organisation afloat can be tough at the best of times, but over the past 18 months (give or take), it’s been especially hard. 

Many leaders in the for-purpose space are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, and exhausted, finding it difficult to stay on top of their own work, as well as support the wellbeing of their staff.  

While some may see seeking outside help and guidance from a mentor as a failure of their own capabilities, many successful leaders will tell you the exact opposite. 

To learn more about the benefits of finding a mentor as a leader, we sat down with Beth Weatherly from Kilfinan, an organisation that matches mentors to mentees. 

Hey Beth! So tell me a bit about why finding a mentor as a leader is so important? 

The concept of burnout certainly isn’t new to people who work in the social sector. But more and more we’re hearing people talk about it. Obviously, in the COVID environment the psychological pressures on leaders right now are very high. And it’s times like this when the needs and the support systems around the CEO are ignored in favour of staff and communities, because that’s what leaders do, and it’s completely understandable. So this is beyond resilience, it’s about being robust. Mentoring itself is a discreet, flexible, and really impactful way to lift the support system for the CEO.

And what benefits does having a mentor bring to a person’s leadership? 

I think a common misconception around mentoring for maybe the uninitiated, is that it’s just about a one way exchange of skills and knowledge. But mentoring is actually a transformative space. It’s a confluence of minds, it’s generative, it’s collaborative, it’s independent from your staff, independent from your board, your executive team. It’s a really critical space to let off steam and get the support and confidence boost that you need in order to make all of the really tough decisions that leaders are facing right now. You just can’t put a price on the value of that. It’s also different from going through a standard leadership program, because mentoring is long term and really flexible and adaptable to whatever is happening in the moment, which is exactly what leaders need right now. 

Is it a problem that leaders might avoid seeking a mentor because they feel as though it’s making up for something they lack in their own personal skills? 

I think there is a bit of a stigma around mentoring. That people who seek mentoring maybe don’t have the skills or capacity to do the job on their own. And it’s really just not true. We have leaders in our mentor and mentee pool who have been working as a CEO for a decade or more, and they still get immense value from mentoring or being a mentee because it’s about collaboration. It’s about combining the strengths, skills and experience of proven leaders. 

What advice do you have for a leader for seeking out the right kind of mentor? 

When it comes to finding an excellent match or knowing who could best support you, it’s less about what you think you want to learn and more about who the mentor is and are they invested in your success? Do they have skills and a mindset that complements and challenges your own? 

And if this article has inspired you to find your very own mentor, Kilfinan offers a range of free programs to help you find your perfect mentor match. Check them out here.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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