Integrity Matters
September 15, 2004

Mentors teach the ropes of integrity

Question: (E-136)

Dear Jim:

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 accountability.

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.

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