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How having a mentor can make you a more effective CEO

Sometimes there’s a misconception that CEOs and founders are just born leaders. It can seem like they appear overnight, fully formed with a vision and all the skills necessary to lead organisations of all shapes and sizes. But most of us have had a long journey – and have been shaped by both our challenges and our supporters. 

When I look back on my career, one thing I wish I had done earlier was to find mentors. Having mentors has completely transformed my businesses, and to this day, I have several mentors that I turn to for advice and guidance. 

Let’s walk through the why’s and how’s of mentorship for CEOs and founders.

Learning Never Stops

When you’re just starting out in your career, finding a good mentor is one of the most common pieces of advice you receive. But if you’ve reached a leadership position, often you are being asked to do the mentoring rather than being mentored yourself. While it’s a privilege to be able to invest back into early-career entrepreneurs, it’s vital to remember that even once you’ve reached your peak, your learning should never stop.

Harvard Business Review conducted a study in which they interviewed 15 mentors at the top of their game. What they found was that CEOs need mentors just as much as their more junior counterparts. While the outcomes for mid-level employees in mentoring relationships were faster advancement, higher salaries and job satisfaction, CEO’s noted their own mentorships led to improved company performance, better decision making, and fewer chances of making costly mistakes.  

Everyone Needs Support, No Matter Your Level

Arguably two of the most successful men to have graced the planet have had mentors themselves: Steve Jobs took on a mentor role for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk looks to Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, for mentoring and support. Even Bill Gates found a mentor in Warren Buffet.

When you reach C-suite roles, the pressure can build, and it might feel more than a little bit lonely at times. Having a mentor who has ‘been there, done that’, can help ease that pressure and give you the clarity you need to keep making decisions for your businesses. Sometimes you just need someone who ‘gets it’ to bounce ideas off. 

I am in a WhatsApp group with several business owners who have created multi-million dollar companies.  Having that outlet to seek advice is one of the most invaluable assets in my career’s tool belt. Surrounding yourself with sharp minds will keep you on your toes and push you to innovate.

Get Flexible

Working remotely for much of the past two years has reaffirmed my belief that borders don’t need to be barriers to connecting. When I started Lisnic, a virtual mentoring platform, I believed the pairing of mentors and their mentees should not be constricted by their physical locations. CEOs need not limit mentoring opportunities to those within their immediate physical proximity but rather be bold and reach out using the wealth of digital tools at their fingertips to find a mentor that inspires them.

Develop Your Skills to Develop Your Teams

The benefits of solid mentorship for CEOs do not end after your mentorship sessions. A qualified, seasoned mentor shows senior staff what good mentorship looks like – how to listen, when to offer advice and how to find the right resources for development. When CEOs take advantage of these mentorship benefits, they take those same skills back to their businesses, investing in their junior staff through mentorships of their own.

Mentorships can be a fantastic opportunity for professional development without strict timelines or lengthy absences for courses or development programs. To quote the previously mentioned Harvard study again, for employers, the benefits of engaging their staff in mentorships include “…not only higher performance but also greater success in attracting, developing, and retaining talent.” It’s a win-win for staff and you.

Whether it’s advice, a sounding board, or professional development, there’s clearly a wealth of benefits to receiving mentoring if you’re a CEO or business leader. With tools like LinkedIn and Lisnic at your fingertips and the growing adoption of digital technologies that enable connections across the globe, there’s never been a better time to start your mentorship journey.

Read more: The value of mentors in times of crisis

Read more: Why your mentor doesn’t need to be a CEO

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Nick Bell

Nick Bell

Nick Bell is a five x AFR young rich-lister and founder of 12 global digital agencies including First Page Digital, Lisnic and Removify.

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