September 15, 2004
Mentors teach the ropes of integrity
You've mentioned mentors in some of your columns. What
is a mentor and why are they important? What does a mentor
have to do with integrity?
Mentors are wise and trusted counselors. Mentors are
teachers. Mentors are those individuals whose special
gifts enable them to perceive the potential of another
individual and help him or her achieve it. They're found
in all of life's activities -- assisting friends and
colleagues with improved sports performance, constructive
thinking, language refinement, communications impact
and effective behavior. Mentors often connect with their
students -- their protégés -- around common
values, and from that foundation they build life-changing
relationships centering upon integrity and interpersonal
A protégés is sometimes defined as someone
willing to accept guidance by a more influential or experienced
person. Earlier in American history, a wide range of
professions encouraged apprenticeships, including physicians,
lawyers, teachers, silversmiths, typesetters and soldiers.
The next generation of workers and leaders acquired their
skills from those with a track record and experience.
Theory without practical application was of little interest.
Yes, mentors can make a positive difference in the way
an individual develops. Mentors require of their "students" a
willingness to listen and an eagerness to learn. Mentors
are seeking those who are capable of admitting that they
do not have all of the answers and can be open and honest
about their vulnerabilities. Mentors recognize the inner
strength required of those who are willing to ask for
assistance. Mentors are eager to reach out and lend a
hand to those who are not too proud to acknowledge real
or imagined fears and anxieties. Mentors offer the lifeline
of hope and insight to those willing to risk the hard
challenges that often accompany improvement, regardless
of the activity.
Mentors are close enough to us to encourage our growth
and objective enough to critique our mistakes. They combine
a pat on the back and a swift kick in the backside with
equal vigor. They care so much about us and our reaching
our potential that they are willing to risk our rejection
in order to remain substantively involved with us. We
can never repay them. We can, however, pass along their
wisdom and honest caring.
If you do not have a mentor, find one. If you have not
yet mentored someone, after having been mentored yourself,
then find a protégés, soon, and pay forward
the integrity you received.