I would argue that learning to follow is just as important as learning to lead. Better put by Oswald Sanders, "Many who aspire to leadership fail because they never learned to follow." There is a lot of information out there on how to be a good mentor- how to disciple, coach, train, guide, and direct. But over the past year, I have learned some valuable lessons about following well. I'm certainly not good at all of these yet, but I know I need to be in order to maximize the voices in my life. Over the next week, I will devote 3 posts to the other side of the mentoring equation- how to be mentored.
1. Identify the voices in your life - As young leaders, we all want to have someone investing in us. It can be challenging to find someone that is willing to mentor you. But I guarantee you that you already have people mentoring you, you just didn't realize it. Maybe this question will help you identify a couple people...whose voice is loud in your ears? In other words, when this person talks, you listen. When they give advice, you tend to heed it.
2. Assume a learning posture - Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I have never met a man that was not my superior in some particular.” In other words, each person we meet has the potential to teach us something. Make learning your passion and look for the lesson in every situation. Approach every situation as an opportunity to learn. Learn from people. Learn from blogs. Learn from books. Learn from experiences. Learn from failures. Learn from successes.
3. Take initiative - I have never asked someone, "will you be my mentor?" because I think that is a little awkward. But I have asked countless people to set aside an hour for coffee with me. I think the best mentoring relationships happen organically and out of existing relationships, but they usually require some initiative. Take it. Look for projects and relationships that will be beneficial for you. Projects give you opportunities to invest and exercise your gifts. Relationships give you opportunities to evaluate and develop your gifts.
4. Recognize that it's more about developing character than gaining influence - Find the people that will help you set you character compass. Surround yourself with people that are valuing the right things. It's important that you grow in your gifts, but it's more important that you grow in your character.
5. Diversify the voices in your life - I think sometimes we look for that ONE person that will dump all of their knowledge, wisdom, and experience on us and then we will be complete. This is dangerous. I would encourage you to cross-pollinate. Don't just learn from people with the same gifts as you.