I still remember the confident, professional presence of Tom Bailey as he entered the meeting I was attending with my boss. He was working on a major land acquisition adjacent to a future mall. As a young broker, only 25 years old, I had no stake in the game. There was no pressure on me but I was totally captivated by the size of the potential transaction and the savvy of the players in the game.
Tom Bailey was a partner with Trammell Crow; in the 80’s they were one of the most respected names in real estate. I had never met Tom (nor would I encounter him again) but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was sharp in appearance and thought. He displayed a quiet confidence without bravado. Brilliantly, he dissected issues and articulated solutions. I was totally inspired. In one meeting, Tom Bailey had become my new standard of excellence.
My take away that day was the aspiration to develop the professional qualities I recognized in one man. To this day I am thankful for the experience; yet, I couldn’t say that Tom Bailey was a mentor to me because mentoring is more than inspiration. Public heroes, authors and historical figures have inspired and instructed me indirectly, but they are not my mentors.
Mentoring has become a buzz word that carries a wide range of definitions and connotations: guide, teacher, counselor, supporter, adviser, even guru immediately come to mind. Great leaders and teachers and celebrities can evoke powerful emotions that motivate us to do our best. They may become role models for us, but true mentoring is not feasible from a distance.
Mentoring requires intention and connection and relationship. Bob Biehl wrote that “Modeling is a major part of mentoring but modeling isn’t mentoring” (Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One, Broadman and Holman, 1997). He speaks of five misconceptions people have about mentors: they must be 1) 83 years old, 2) perfect, 3) have all the answers, 4) teach a curriculum, 5) hold a protégé accountable.
Thankfully mentoring is much more flexible and relational and dynamic than that! A mentoring relationship provides a safe and stimulating arena to learn and grow and practice new ideas and skills.
Few will have a mentor like Elisha, the faithful disciple of the prophet Elijah (and his successor). Elisha did not just observe Elijah from a distance, or read “How to Speak for God” or mail in his top ten questions. Read 2 Kings 1-14 and you will notice that three different times Elijah asked Elisha to stay with him and each time Elisha responded, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” (2: 2, 4, 6).
Mentoring relationships are rarely so dramatic, and every relationship looks different, but the common denominator is walking together. A mentor is hands on, meaning he or she is actually at hand to provide the inspiration, example, guidance and encouragement a protégé needs to help them move toward their own God-given calling and potential.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, I am grateful for all of those who have been models for me to emulate, but I cannot imagine where I would be today without the special mentors who actually took the time and interest to personally invest in me. My relationships with them have provided place to learn and process and contemplate important questions about business and life. I have absolutely no doubt that you put these men in my path at the most opportune moments. Thank you!
“I know it is not enough to be remembered for books and theories. One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Joseph Schumpeter, Economist