by Justin Standfield
In his book, ‘True North’, Bill George examines the journey to authentic leadership and provides a development plan to stay true to who you are while confronting the challenges that pop up around you. According to George, one element of your development plan should be building a support team. Members of your team help you stay focussed on your True North, which is “the internal compass that guides you successfully through life”. They keep you grounded in reality and provide the support you need as you move forward on your leadership journey.
Authentic leaders build support teams that will counsel them in times of uncertainty, be there in times of difficulty and celebrate with them in times of success. Your support team starts with having at least one person in your life with whom you can be completely vulnerable and open. Often, that person is the only one who can tell you the honest truth. Most leaders have their closest relationships with their spouses, although some develop these bonds with other family members, a close friend or a trusted mentor.
Many authentic leaders have had a mentor who’s changed their lives by helping them develop the skills to become better leaders and the confidence to lead authentically. The best mentoring relationships spark mutual learning, exploration of similar values and shared enjoyment – so these interactions are frequently beneficial for both mentor and mentee.
For me, it’s important to note that mentors aren’t necessarily people who make you feel good about yourself or tell you that you can do anything you want to do; in my own experience, the best mentors I’ve had provided tough love by being critical as a means of development. I wonder if some leaders prefer mentors who are always there for them but don’t push them to change or improve?
Your support team might include several highly trusted personal and professional ‘advisors’, i.e. people you respect for their professional expertise, insights and wisdom. Given the pandemic in which we’re currently living and working, you might also choose a mentor for your support team based on their commitment to your wellbeing. Under normal circumstances when COVID-19 isn’t even a thing, it’s important to build your team long before there’s a crisis in your life. According to George, the idea is that you can then be assured that people will be available to help when you need them most.
If you’d like to explore a more structured approach to the provision of mentors for the leaders in your organisation, please get in touch and tell me what you’re looking for. As well as helping organisations set up corporate mentoring and coaching schemes, I’ve been lucky enough to train thousands of people to become a coach or mentor.
Image credit: Tim Mossholder @timmossholder