Giving as Good as You Get
A successful CEO needs a mentor, for all sorts of reasons, but just as important as having a mentor is being one. Helping and teaching others is a big part of your role as a leader—especially if you want to be in a position to sell your company to your employees someday.
Mentoring Other CEOs
You do not have to know everything knowable about business in order to mentor others. If you are a CEO, then you have already have a foundation of success and you can share that success with others. In any case, one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it because that way you uncover how much you already know. Making yourself available to other business leaders is just an extension of basic professional networking. And while organizations such as Vistage that offer peer support to CEOs are one way to get help for yourself, participants offer assistance as well as receiving it.
Mentoring as a Component of Leadership
A lot of CEOs are very good at attending to the daily minutia of running a company, but they forget to step back and keep track of the big picture. And that is not helpful.
As a CEO, you can think of yourself as the captain of your ship—but the captains of real sailing ships do not raise and lower the sails themselves. If they did, their focus would narrow to just the rope in their hands and they would lose their awareness of the ship and its crew as a whole. The reality is, your job as CEO is not to play wack-a-mole with every crisis that comes up, but to train and support your employees to take care of those crises for you. In order words, the more you can function as your employees’ mentor, the better your business will go.
Learning to Be a Mentor
But if you do not keep up with changes in culture and technology, how are you going to stay relevant to the people you are trying to help? My mother bought herself a smartphone so she could learn to use Facebook and Twitter—not that she’s interested in Facebook and Twitter, but she wanted to be able to understand her grandkids. In order to be able to offer useful guidance to others, you need to keep learning yourself and a mentor of your own can help you do that.
So we’ve come full circle; one of the most important thing you can learn from having a mentor is how to be a good one yourself.