The February 11th, 2021 edition of the Wall Street Journal has an excellent review of a new book by Michael Gerhardt entitled Lincoln’s Mentors. You can read it at https://www.wsj.com/articles/lincolns-mentors-review-the-education-of-a-leader-11613083910.
It explains what Lincoln learned from Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, John Todd Stuart, and Orville Browning. Some, like Jackson, were more models than mentors, but all had a major impact on Lincoln.
It got me thinking about mentors in general and the value of having more than one.
What I’ve observed is that even the wisest mentors have their limitations. Their counsel may be valuable most of the time, but in certain areas they may be biased or have flawed perspectives. Or they may just happen to offer advice that, in a given instance, doesn’t serve us well—that may even be counterproductive.
In fact sometimes the best advice we get when facing a business challenge is from someone whom we might not regard as a mentor or model at all but who happens to hit the nail on the head.
That’s why I think multiple mentors are useful, and I think most of us have relied on more than one in our professional careers. Like the time we didn’t go back to the person we regularly turn to with our problems because we already had a good idea what he or she would say and we knew in advance that that wasn’t what we were looking for.
We probably can’t have too many mentors. I know they aren’t easy to find, however, particularly in specialized areas, and that’s one of the reasons I launched the online networking platform LeaderBridge®, to make it easy for senior executives from different organizations to query or connect with each other, anonymously, and get valuable input on their ideas and the challenges they face.
For now, in its Beta launch, LeaderBridge® is open to executives in healthcare provider organizations exclusively, but it will eventually include members from a range of industries. To find out more, go to www.leaderbridge.com.