Leadership vs. Mentorship

In my career, I’ve been asked to build and lead teams.

It’s definitely an exciting proposition to build and lead a team. Having the resources and authority to staff your own department is a luxury not afforded to all. But what exactly is leadership? Does having a title make you a leader?

In my experience, no. We’ve all had bosses that couldn’t do their job for shit. We’ve all thought, I could do that better.

For me, leadership starts with helping those around you, including your boss who may (like it or not) need to learn from you. For me, leadership is mentorship.

Think about the opportunities you have on a daily basis to help those around you develop their skill vs. fix a problem for them. In the workplace, problems can be a good thing as they are indicative of someone pushing either their own limits or the limits of an assignment.

As an employee, the easier and safer way to (relative) prosperity is to show up and do as you’re told. As a leader, the more difficult path of challenging brand dogma and questioning why things are the way they are creates a deep understanding of project needs and goals.

Armed with a deep understanding of the issues at hand, leaders remove boundaries for staff members.

For example, if a member of my team is an excellent marketer but relies on an agency to provide images for a Facebook ad carousel, I will teach that team member enough Photoshop to stimulate a personal desire to learn more.

As another example, if a team member is a strong digital artist but lacks significant experience as a digital marketer, I will show that artist how to build audiences in Facebook that he or she could then create specific pieces of art that may appeal to specific audiences. Then, I’ll empower that artist with his or her own campaign so he or she can see, first hand, how creative and audiences work together to generate engagement.

At the heart of mentorship is empowerment. By empowering those around me to develop passionate interests in personal development, my job as a leader becomes easier. I don’t have to worry about people coming in late, leaving early or slacking off half as much as I normally would with a disenfranchised workforce. Also, I don’t have to worry about staff turnover as much which reduces lost work time and the costs associated with finding and training new talent.

In conclusion, I think it’s important to mention that even mentors need mentors. Don’t overlook this. Being the smartest person in the room is a terrible thing. Always look for professional opportunities to both share your knowledge and to gain it from others.

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