Looking for a Mentor?

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Last week, I conferred with a friend who was overwhelmed with life, and in our conversation, I asked about who her personal advisory board is – she seemed clueless on how to find mentors.

As a young christian man, I have always taken many cues from the Bible. One of those is the leadership development style of Paul the apostle and a young man named Titus. The story is in the book of Titus, tucked between the books of 2nd Timothy and Philemon.

There must be older men who are willing to invest time in young men to mentor them. Surprisingly the bible has many examples of this: Abraham/Lot; Jethro/Moses, Eli/Samuel; Nathan/David; Elijah/Elisha; Barnabas/Saul; Paul/Timothy… and women: Naomi/Ruth; Elizabeth/Mary. If you are a young person and you need to develop in your own leadership and personal growth, you need a mentor.

Well, naturally the next question is who makes a great mentor? Titus 1:5-9 provides some hints on the qualities of a great mentor:

  1. In their Personal life, they need to be blameless, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not violent, sober-minded, holy and self controlled – notice that these qualities were primarily set for church leaders, but the pattern is clear, a mentor needs to be someone grounded and clearly sober.
  2. Family Life: They need to be a husband of one wife, with faithful children. – I think this one was quite insightful for me. Its been debated whether a traditional family and/or having children is a sign or mark of a leader. I think not, but I think that one with a family and children has more opportunities to practice other virtues of life, including sacrifice, responsibility, and often has more to live for than just themselves. This should make for a good person to learn from.
  3. Social Life: They need to be hospitable, just, not corrupt and not given to drunkenness. I know that we like to bucket our social and professional lives, and in some cases we like to say “my private life” – but really is it? As a leader, do you really ever have 5 sides to the coin? Or is it that who you are in your private confines must be consistent with your public self. I’d choose consistency in a mentor.
  4. Financial Life: A steward of God, not greedy for money –  I think being a steward of God is a high and lofty standard, that requires a world view where one self is not the center of everything that they do. Does your mentor look like someone driven by the desire to get rich at all costs? Don’t get me wrong, money does make smooth so many ways and roads, heck, the church in Paul’s time needed money, as the church still does today. But this is about the attitude towards money that your mentor has – because it might pass on to you.
  5. Professional Life: not accused of insubordination, a lover of whats good, able to correct others, faithful to their values – This is perhaps a hard one. While our attitude to neighbors and garbage needs to be the same regardless, everyone has a different professional path – the goal here is not to cherry pick your dream job, rather the goal is to pick people who epitomize great careers and success in different fields. Unless proven exceptionally consistent, is is harder for your peers to fill mentor roles because their track record is not long enough. Your mentor needs to be someone who inspires you when you look at their work and achievements.

I hope that this list will help not just my friend Susan, but many other young people to look to sit at the feet of the right crop of leaders, men and women of sound mind, exemplary character and inspiring professional and social lives. As we learn from them, we will set the stage for our children’s children.

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