January 17, 2023

How being a mentor can help you become a better leader

Mentoring is a two-way learning experience that can be a great way to improve your leadership skills. Anyone who has been in a leadership position knows that being a good leader isn’t always straightforward. While it’s important to understand your own leadership style and what motivates you as a leader, you’re not the only person involved in the equation. A big factor in being a great leader is how you work with other people to meet their needs. Mentoring outside of your immediate environment is an excellent way to learn more about how other people think, how they work, and what they need. 

Here are a few ways that being a mentor can help you become a better leader:

Grow through active listening

One of the most valuable skills a leader can have is active listening. Going beyond simply understanding the words that someone says, active listening involves trying to understand the entire message that’s being communicated. This may involve additional factors such as body language and facial expressions, for example. Active listening is an essential part of a successful mentoring relationship and something that becomes easier over time. Meeting with a mentee regularly is a great way to hone active listening skills through consistent practice.

Learn to lead by example

In stressful or fast-paced work environments, it’s easy to fall into the trap of giving orders rather than guidance. However, the most effective leaders are those that work with their teams to help each individual grow and advance, thus bringing the whole team up with them. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Mentoring is about leading by example and using your experience to help guide your mentee toward their goals. This is an approach to leadership that is easily transferable to the workplace and can have a big impact when it comes to employee morale and success.

Build trust with someone new

One of the benefits of mentoring outside of your workplace or with someone you’ve never met before is that it forces you to work on social skills you may not have had to use in a while. Trust is something that typically develops over time when you work closely with someone but when you’re limited to a set number of mentoring sessions, that process needs to be expedited without losing its potency. Building trust is incredibly important when it comes to establishing a strong mentoring foundation but is harder to do when your mentee isn’t someone you see every day. Understanding how to build trust quickly with someone new will help you become a leader that people feel they can come to and confide in.

Practice giving and receiving feedback

Giving feedback in a way that will be well-received is an important part of leadership. Feedback is still something that a lot of people fear and would rather avoid because they see it as having done something wrong, however, receiving feedback is how we grow, learn, and move forward. In order for a mentoring relationship to be successful, continuous two-way feedback is essential for ensuring that progress is being made in the right direction. There’s no one-size-fits all method when it comes to giving feedback so you’ll have to explore how your mentee wants to receive feedback, set expectations, and figure out what’s most effective. This process makes it easy to practice giving feedback and to start feeling more comfortable receiving feedback if that’s something you’re not used to.

Learn through shared experiences

While most people understand mentoring as the mentor sharing their experience with the mentee, they often overlook the value of the mentee sharing their experience with the mentor. Working with a mentee from a different company, culture, industry, or location is a fantastic way to be exposed to new ways of thinking and learn from what other people are doing. There's a lot of invaluable insight to be gained by discovering how your mentee thinks, what kind of leadership style they have, and what kind of leadership style they need. Mentoring is a unique opportunity to get a look into how others approach or handle similar challenges and may broaden your leadership perspective.

Becoming a mentor through a program like Femme Palette has the added benefit of being able to learn from the experiences of other mentors as well. Our 700+ strong mentor community is a great place to network and connect with other leaders from around the world.

Are you interested in improving your leadership skills through mentoring? Find out more about how to become a mentor here.

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