Servant Mentorship
Posted 08.01.16
Jonathan A. Segal

I am pleased to share my latest post to The SHRM Blog.

Almost everyone recognizes how important mentoring is. I don’t know anyone who is successful who did not have at least one good mentor. I know I am grateful for mine.

Similarly, I don’t know any good leaders who don’t mentor to some degree. It is more than a mark of a good leader; the mentoring makes the leader stronger by what he or she learns from the mentee.

Of course, people define mentoring differently. It should be more than showing someone the ropes or sharing inside baseball.

A good mentor should have a vested interest in helping his or her mentee succeed. Yes, I recognize that this definition begins to bleed into sponsorship as many define it.

However, I believe the line between mentorship and sponsorship can be somewhat artificial. In my views, the best mentorships include a sponsorship component. The term I use is “servant mentorship.”

One way that mentors can sponsor mentees is by opening doors for them. “I can’t do this but I think this would be a great opportunity for you.”

In these cases, the mentor feels good about the opportunity that he or she has provided. While this may benefit the mentee too, the mentor is benefiting by having someone safe do what he or she cannot.

Don’t get me wrong. That’s not a bad thing. But it’s not as wonderful as it may make the mentor feel.

For me, the best test as to whether someone is a servant mentor is whether they lean back so their mentee can lean in. That means giving up an opportunity for the mentee so that he or she can grow.

“I can do this, but I think you would be great. If you want it, it’s yours.”

Mentees know the difference. And, I believe, they respond in kind.

Opening a door for someone when you cannot walk in is not “servant mentorship.” Not walking in the door when you can but sending your mentee instead is.

Next month I will be giving my monthly slot to a mentee. Thank you to SHRM for joining me in service mentorship.

About Jonathan A. Segal
Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .