Mentorship is almost ubiquitous in the leadership literature. Find yourself a good mentor and you will receive sage advice, have a strong advocate in your field, enjoy a ready reference from an influential professional, and gain entrance to rooms and conversations that are normally reserved for those at levels above your own. By association, your mentors will allow you to taste the nectar of top-shelf leadership roles and try on the trappings of your next professional positions. The formula for finding professional mentors is also pretty established: find someone you admire in your field who occupies a position a few rungs above you on the professional ladder and ask for their guidance. The potential mentor will be flattered by your invitation, identifies you as someone worthy of investment, and you ride off in to the sunset of mentorship bliss. Perfect, no?
In my experience: not always.
This traditional model of leadership causes professionals, especially women, to view a mentor much like a savior or a hero in a fairy tale. As Sheryl Sandberg says:
We all grew up on…“Sleeping Beauty,” which instructs young women that if they just wait for their prince to arrive, they will be kissed and whisked away on a white horse to live happily ever after. Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after.
In my own experience, I have generally followed the traditional rules and searched up the professional ladder for my mentors. However, as I have progressed in my career, my professional advancement has left me with a pool of far fewer individuals above me from which to select a mentor. Continue reading Modern Mentorship: Look Laterally