By Micki Costello, Surviving Spouse Advisory Council
Children look to parents, teachers, coaches, or even older siblings or relatives as role models for inspiration on how to behave. Even adults seek to model themselves after those who appear to be successful or who they consider are worth emulating, such as famous leaders in history, professional athletes, and entertainers. It is important to remember, however, that role models can be positive or negative, and it is up to the individual to choose whose actions to follow.
Role models and mentors, though similar, are, in fact, quite different. Role models often are distant, having no actual connection or contact with those who admire them. A mentor, as described in Webster’s Dictionary, is “a trusted counselor or guide,” and because of a close relationship with his or her students, have a more profound impact. A mentor is someone who looks for ways to help others reach their full potential.
Whether we realize it or not, each of us has been a mentor and a role model at some time in our lives. Good mentors provide a positive influence on those around them by being willing to share the knowledge, skills, and expertise they have gained and developed. Effective mentoring takes work and enthusiasm; it requires the mentor to take a personal interest in his mentee, providing guidance and constructive feedback in an effort to grow that person to his or her fullest.
John Crosby aptly describes a mentor as a “brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” As a leader, one should first practice the behavior desired for others to follow and then look for opportunities to share experience and learning to help the protégé “navigate a course to the destination.” (John C. Maxwell)