Leadership is a lonely place

Anyone who is, or has been a CEO or senior leader will recognise that leading an organisation can be a lonely place. Whether it’s developing organisational strategy, sorting people issues, overcoming funding challenges, dealing with the Board, leading and driving change, ensuring good governance or simply trying to keep the day to day business as usual running – being at the top of an organisation can be a lonely place to be. 

Enter the mentor.

Throughout my career I have always ensured that I have had a good mentor by my side. Having a brain to pick, an ear to listen and an occasional prod in the right direction is helpful for any seasoned or emerging leader. Without a doubt, having a mentor has been instrumental in my own personal development as a leader. It sits high on my list of top five ‘must have’ things that can help to make you the very best you can be.

A good mentor is someone you can confide in, and if necessary let off steam to. They provide a well needed and confidential ‘safe space’ to bounce around ideas and problems and they are invaluable in helping you to develop your own thinking. Equally important are those moments when they can be there to help motivate or build you back up when you might be doubting yourself or your ability.

One area in particular that I have benefitted from is having a mentor that can act as a very honest ‘critical friend’. Over the years they have helped me to identify potential blind spots or areas of my leadership or behaviour that could become a significant wooden leg in terms of my own leadership.  They are the things that I have had to work extra hard on but by highlighting them, and having an opportunity to productively discuss them, they have helped to shape me into a much more rounded and effective leader.

So, if having a mentor is so beneficial, why doesn’t every CEO/senior leader have one?

I regularly hear two main reasons – ‘I don’t have the time’ and/or ‘I don’t have the money’. 

These are both valid statements, but to my mind lack any true understanding of the immense value that can come with having a good mentor.

Lifelong value

Over the last 20 years the time and money I have invested in finding and securing myself a regular mentor has been minimal – yet the immediate rewards and lifelong value I have gained has been priceless. 

A good mentor sees more talent and ability in you than you often see in yourself – and helps to bring it out. One client told me that their mentoring sessions had given them the confidence to believe in themselves more as they took on a challenging new leadership role. Another told me that despite having been in post as CEO in an organisation for a number of years, it was reinvigorating and refreshing to have someone new to support them, push them, and use as a sounding board on how they could develop themselves and the organisation further. 

So, next time you are thinking about developing your organisation, give some thought to how your organisation can develop its current or emerging leaders. ‘Too busy’ or ‘no money’ can be a false economy, particularly when the organisations greatest asset is the people that work for it. 

Founder of Thrive Consulting and part-time charity CEO. Passionate about helping charities and not for profit organisations across the UK to Thrive.
With over 25 years experience I support people and charities to be the very best they can be.

I set up Thrive Charity Consulting in 2018 to offer a wealth of insight, experience and expert advice to charities of all sizes across the UK. We help people to solve problems, overcome challenges and maximise individual and organisational effectiveness.

Contact us to find out how we could help your charity.


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