Situation 36: Female Leadership Mentoring

Femsy admits that self-confidence remains an issue for her. She sometimes finds it tough to operate in a macho environment. Furthermore she feels she does not have a strong network. She agrees with boss to find a third party mentor.

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A great leader:

  • Knows herself; her strengths and limitations;
  • Is able to surround herself with people with complementary skills;
  • Actively seeks the counsel and wisdom of others to help her understand herself better and grow.

How to best handle the situation:

Excellent mentors tend to be individuals who are more experienced in your field whom you respect professionally and find inspiring. They can be more senior individuals inside the organisation or work for an entirely different entity to you.

A good mentor is someone with whom you already have a relationship and to whom you have already demonstrated your potential. They need to like and believe in you otherwise they will not make an ongoing commitment to invest time and effort in you.

Take time to think about whom you would like to have as a mentor since the choice of person has a big impact on the relationship and ultimately your success. The person needs to be willing to share knowledge, be open and honest with you and is trustworthy; you need to feel safe to share personally sensitive information with him/her. Choose someone whom you like and look forward to spending time with; they should energise you.

Once you have approached your mentor and got an initial agreement from them, it is important to do some contracting to establish the nature of your relationship and the specifics around how you will work together. You need to have an open dialogue to establish what will work for both of you.

If you establish a good mentoring relationship, there is no reason why it should not last for many years. Therefore it is important to review the process from time-to-time to determine what is working well and what can be improved.

Learning suggestions:

  • When you have engaged a mentor spend some time during your first session together agreeing your goals and objectives and modus operandi. Determine how often you will meet and whether this will be face-to-face, virtual (e.g. by phone or Skype) or a combination of both.
  • Your mentor should be able to help you to navigate the complexities of organizational life and help you to progress in your career, so think carefully about what issues you want to discuss with him/her and what advice and tips you are looking for. Show your commitment to the relationship by acting on any advice that he/she gives you and doing your ‘homework’ in between sessions.
  • Your mentor will be well connected and should be able to open doors for you and help you build your network; have the courage to ask for introductions.


If you stand out, great mentors will find you. Find ways to be of service and value to them by offering your unique voice, perspectives, experiences and resources to further their work and ideas.

 Femcommunity tips:

We welcome your thoughts, experiences and comments on how you would deal with such a situation.

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