Sharon Klein
Azure Consulting

Member Article

A mentor by any other name…is still a mentor

A lot has been made of the model of “sponsorship” being adopted by high profile individuals and reflected in some businesses as a way of fast-track developing careers.

A case in point which has been highlighted is the relationship between model Cara Delavigne and Katie Grand, the lady who booked her when others wouldn’t. This has been a major boost to the careers of both parties, who have benefited Delavigne’s rise to superstardom in the fashion world.

Some argue that sponsorship is different from mentorship, better for women wanting to rise to the top and with benefits for both parties. However, it is merely how good mentoring should look, whether the individuals are men, women or aliens from outer space. What is there to say that mentors shouldn’t gain from those they support, as those advocates of sponsorship suggest is the issue with mentorship? All good relationships should aid both parties, otherwise why would people be mentors at all?

The argument goes that those who have mentors, but not sponsors, fail to make the most of their potential because they do not develop the relationship and simply plough on, hoping someone else, ie the mentor figure, will give them the push they need. Surely, then, the difference, if indeed there is one, between a sponsor and a mentor is their benefactor’s own sense of personal responsibility for their careers.

If the individual cannot, or will not, push themselves to achieve their own potential, then the mentor is wasting his or her own time, and that of their business. A successful mentor-benefactor relationship is based upon helping someone to help themselves to achieve their potential.

The reciprocal nature of the relationship is that the senior figure helps create a top performing member of his or her team, an individual who will work for them and go the extra mile. This is what those advocates of sponsorship say the difference is, but mentoring, done well, achieves the same goal. Whatever you choose to call it, mentors or sponsors are important to drive an individual forward.

Having someone who believes in, supports and even challenges an individual to achieve their potential will result in a greater chance of success than a more isolated person ploughing their own furrow. The old adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has a lot of truth to it, but not necessarily in the nepotistic way it is often taken. Even when there are blood ties between individuals, the mentor relationship of a father and child can be hugely influential in ensuring the successful development of the son or daughter so that they can gain the attributes necessary for succession.

In contrast, it is not unusual for a Japanese businessman to adopt a grown child to become their heir, if that individual is seen as being of the right calibre. This is perhaps the most extreme form of choosing a protege, but the results are the same in that the relationship benefits both parties.

It is, to some extent, unhelpful for one form of mentorship, in this case “sponsorship”, to be heralded as superior to others, especially when the real difference can be something as simple as the drive of the person being supported. What is important is that good mentors exist and help those who want to achieve their goals to do so.

Sharon Klein is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. 01924 385600.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Azure Consulting .

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