The importance of mentoring to leadership development

  • Published
  • By Maj. Candice Allen
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

My mentor memorized my phone number. Not on purpose. It was simply because I call a lot. From then on, whenever I call, he answers in a certain tone and with a particular phrase, knowing it is I.  

He was my boss. Now, he’s my mentor.

Everyone needs a mentor. Someone who challenges you to be the best version of yourself. Someone who pushes you over the obstacle that seemed so insurmountable at the time. For me, finding a mentor that believes in me, when at times, I could not muster up the internal strength to believe in myself, was the reason I sought one out. This is the mentor I have.

I distinctively recall one time when I questioned remaining in my career field. I went into my mentor’s office. Closed the door. And, proceeded to provide a laundry list of my inadequacies and why staying in this career field is not beneficial. He listened. I explained more. Then, he gave me a laundry list of my strengths. Although my laundry list of inadequacies didn’t change when I walked out the door that day, my focus shifted. I looked at my mentor’s list versus my own, because I valued his input because he had “been there and done that.” And, if he says, I can do it. Then, I can. Two years later, I am at a fighter wing doing what I thought I couldn’t do.

Webster defines a mentor as a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. In Air Force Manual 36-2643, mentors are advisors and guides who share knowledge, experiences and advice in helping mentees achieve their career goals.

I see a mentor as someone who has gone before me and taken the road less traveled at times.

I selected my mentor through a less conventional way. I just kept coming back for more advice until I declared him my mentor. I kept seeking advice, because I valued his input – the good and bad.

As I continue my career as a Reserve Citizen Airman and with 18 years of this military life under my belt, I feel the need to pass along nuggets that have served me well in my career.

Mentoring did not come to me like a fork in the road. Rather, it was a feeling that bubbled over that first began with a “please don’t make the same mistake I did” to a “what’s the best road to take to reach your goals.”

The Air Force says mentoring is an essential ingredient in developing well-rounded, professional, and competent future leaders.

With the above statement in mind, I leave you with two questions - are you seeking to be well rounded and are you seeking to build well-rounded future leaders?

Mentoring helps build well-rounded leaders. Sometimes it is the push over the obstacles mentoring gives. Other times it is the same first phrase you hear when you dial a number that tells you it is okay to chat.


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