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High potential employees and new leaders should most certainly have mentors to support their new career as well as the significant change that occurs when one moves from the working ranks to a leadership position.
But should it matter if new leaders have a male or female mentor?
You wouldn’t think so but it does. Simply put, if you’re interested in bridging the gap between your old and new position– then choose a female mentor. If you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder– then choose a male mentor. Women excel at offering personal support, sharing personal experiences, and developing authentic friendships with the new leader.
Female mentors tend to be more about guidance and professional development as opposed to climbing the ladder. Conversely, male mentors tend to provide high visibility, protection, challenging assignments, and opportunities to attend sponsorship functions.
Pennsylvania State University conducted an in-depth study that demonstrated that both men and women perceived men as having more and a different form of power than women. Notably, when proteges are looking to climb up the corporate ladder, they tend to shy away from the female mentor in favor of the male mentor who will lead them directly to the promotions they seek.
It’s clear that mentoring plays a significant role in the success of a business. In fact, on-going professional development should be part of the culture of every organization at every level.
However, there are specific benefits to an organization where quality mentorship is experienced by new leaders:
You’re able to get the proper advice from people that have experienced similar, if not the same situations.
Senior leaders are able to give multiple perspectives as opposed to providing a job-specific view.
Senior leaders are capable of up-leveling your skillset.
Venting to employees, clients, or partners can have a negative impact on business. Yet being able to vent to your mentor provides an appropriate avenue to discuss challenges.
They can put you in contact with the people that will take your leadership position to the next level.
Methods and Strategies
They can provide you with the “playbook” of methods and strategies that have worked for them over time. If they’re great mentors, they’ll allow you to take those strategies and make them work for you.
There’s always the possibility that you make a really good match with your mentor and are able to develop a lifelong relationship that lasts you your entire career, regardless of whether or not you stay with the given organization.
Your confidence can be built by getting immediate feedback on things you’ve done really well (and even things that need improvement). Hearing feedback from your mentor first can help you be a better leader in the future.
You’re likely going to struggle at some point in your new position. This is where a mentor can really help by providing the encouragement you need to keep going, make adjustments, and celebrate the things you’re doing well.
Benefits for Mentors
This can be equally rewarding for the mentors because they may be inspired by new ideas, develop new relationships, and make new contacts that their mentee brings to the relationship.
In terms of benefit for the business, all of the above combined produces greater productivity, better job satisfaction, and an easier transition to the new role. It provides for greater stability when you have outgoing leadership and new people coming in. Finally, it sets an example for prospective leadership seekers as to what they can expect by way of support should they have a future leadership opportunity.
Yet despite these benefits, men and women mentor differently even within the above mentioned criteria. There continues to be more men at the top, and therefore less females to mentor new leaders. This could be one reason why women continue to struggle to attain those top-level positions.
Women who are mentored by male mentors tend to be at greater risk for unwanted sexual advances and comments. Another consideration is that because there are more men at the top than women, they are less threatened by new leaders coming up the ranks.
Conversely, women might feel threatened by newcomers, and in order to maintain her position of authority, are therefore less likely to champion the new leader in the same way a man would.
I’m still confounded by this argument of man vs. women. We’re different! Not better or worse. Just– different. Not smarter or more capable. Just– different.
In 2017, and with all that we know, we should be able to combine the best of our differences to create the kind of working communities that are strong, prosperous, and reflective of its corporate culture and the clients it serves.
Cross-mentoring should be the practice wherever possible so that the new leader gets the benefit of support from both a male and a female mentor. Our workforce should represent the diversity of our society and treat all people with dignity and respect. With this is mind, incidents of verbal, physical, and sexual harassment should significantly decrease, as well as the stress that comes from a dysfunctional corporate culture.
I fully believe that every person has innate gifts to share and that the world doesn’t belong to one particular group or a handful of powerful people. Until we can shift to a new way of thinking and behaving, the age-old debate of male vs. female will continue for generations to come.