Mentoring Aspiring Leaders
Bob Corsi, SEA Board of Directors Secretary and former SES who served as the U.S. Air Force Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, shares his thoughts on mentorship and the importance of adapting the military model to develop the next generation of career executives.
Whether active or passive mentoring is practiced in an organization, nothing is more important to aspiring leaders in their development. Becoming an SES brings with it a host of new responsibilities, not the least of which is to set the right example and understand the immense responsibility of grooming the next generation of leaders. Organization heads must take the time to communicate their expectations to new SESs, either directly or indirectly, regarding their new roles that go well beyond their specific job responsibilities. Clearly, new SESs can feel overwhelmed in their jobs…and that can be expected.
But mentoring should not be new to new SESs if the organization embraced its importance and relayed it as a necessary expectation in their careers leading to the SES. Most organizations have no policy at all when it comes to mentoring; others require, to their credit, that not only should new SESs find a mentor, but also require that the new SES becomes a mentor. Too many times, we hear that new SESs essentially become lost patrols with no safety net to help them navigate in their new leadership role. In these instances, they not only choose to not mentor, but also become less than ideal role models for their workforce.
Ideally, senior mentors should not be in the formal reporting chain for their mentees and should encourage aspiring leaders to seek mentors outside of their chain so they can obtain different perspectives on leadership development paths. Supervisors are a good source of advice on technical development, but, depending on agency dynamics may not have the knowledge or been exposed to any meaningful leadership development. If we don’t understand generational dynamics, we can easily lose promising leaders when they can’t see a path forward or feel stagnated based on lack of any agency leadership focus. Good mentors can help bridge the gap when agencies lack a development model and may be the only stop gap to prevent talent loss.
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