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What Top Business Leaders Say About Mentorship

What Top Business Leaders Say About Mentorship

There are many well-known qualities that define a great leader, including excellent communication and listening skills, a wide variety of experience in life and business, and an entrepreneurial spirit of passion and enthusiasm. But when it comes to the top visionaries of the world – those that we would consider the most innovative and forward-thinking individuals – it’s a bit more difficult to identify and learn from what sets them apart and in a class of their own. 

We’ve selected four profound statements that have been observed and demonstrated by the world’s best leaders regarding mentorship. 

Mentorship Truth #1: Great mentorship involves a network, not just one person. 

When it comes to choosing a mentor, there is no right or wrong or one and only. The best business leaders in the world credit their success to a network or group of mentors at any given time in their career. 

By leveraging multiple mentors, you get the benefit of many unique perspectives, realms of experience, personality types, creative ideas, and communication styles, all of which contribute to a more colorful, enriching, and beneficial experience. 

This is just one reason why the Vistage Chair model is based on a group executive coaching approach. 

Marty Stowe, a Vistage Chair since 2019, views a Vistage peer advisory group as “a very special forum, almost magical. A Vistage Chair forms a pack of wolves. You know the saying, the strength of the wolf is the pack, the strength of the pack is the wolf. We’re stronger together than we are individually.”

The peer advisory group model reduces the need for one individual to be the subject mater expert on everything. Each member is valued for his or her insights, knowledge and wisdom. 

The group forum provides a safe environment where members can talk about “whatever is top of mind, whether that’s struggles with their children, whether that’s a direct report or a financing issue, whether that’s the war going on in Ukraine or social unrest and racism in the United States. We create a platform to talk about that, to learn from that, and to become better human beings,” adds Niels Lameijer, a certified executive and corporate coach. 

Finally, a peer advisory group or network of mentors creates an environment more conducive to speaking the truth. Because tough-to-hear feedback comes from multiple directions, it’s viewed more positively and much less as criticism. 

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Mentorship Truth #2: Creative, visionary mentors are often viewed as eccentric or odd. 

Weird, strange, odd, or genius? Perhaps a combination of all of the above. One of the most notable examples is Sir Richard Branson, who is often viewed as downright bold or absurd, but also as wildly successful. 

Eccentricity is a common trait among many top leaders. Often taking the road less traveled, and many times against the better judgment of their own peer advisors, there’s something to be learned from great minds who are passionate visionaries. 

Engaging in opportunities to learn from and embrace atypical mentorship opportunities can help expand open-mindedness, creativity and innovation. 

Mentorship Truth #3: Great mentors help others become the best version of themselves.

A great business leader and mentor is self-assured enough to be confident in their own identity, which allows them to help others develop the same trait of becoming the best version of themselves. Many leaders can only see things from their own frame of reference, which can inadvertently cause them to push their personal ideals and goals onto those who they lead and influence.  But the best mentors honor and respect the individual and instead focus on challenging, thought-provoking conversations, habits and behavioral change that enhances that person’s unique skillset. 

Mentorship Truth #4: Mentorship doesn’t have to be formal or official. 

When we hear the oft-repeated advice to “find a mentor,” it so easily gets mistranslated into “find ONE mentor.” The pressure to find that one individual in which you feel you match and align well and who has the availability to take you under their wing can be a daunting task.  

Instead of over-complicating or formalizing your mentor search process, become open to the idea that everyone you interact with on a daily basis has the potential to offer you amazing new learning opportunities. 

Find strategic ways to position yourself into situations in which you can embrace prospects, and don’t limit yourself to just one person.  

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The path of mentorship is highly personalized and individual, but by taking insight from some of the world’s most successful leaders, we can continue our own personal development while helping our clients and peers grow as well. Consider our four takeaways in your quest to become a better executive coach and mentor:  

  • Great mentorship involves more than one person, often at the same time. Consider multiple mentors or a peer advisory group for the most well-rounded approach. 
  • The world’s most innovative leaders are often odd or eccentric. Embrace opportunities with atypical leaders to help foster creativity and open-mindedness. 
  • Great mentors are confident enough to help their clients grow into the best version of themselves, not just shadows of who they are or once were. 
  • When seeking out mentors, don’t become paralyzed by the search process. Remain open to daily opportunities by positioning yourself among respected leaders and successful peers. 
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Research

Vistage Research Center publishes actionable, data-driven insights and expert perspectives from our global community of CEOs and thought leaders. Led by Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer