As leaders, moving up the career ladder may afford you with more responsibilities when working with a team. Gaining the confidence to go out for high-ranking positions can be shaped by mentorship and workplace diversity. “Emerging leaders want to see that there is diversity within the workplace—essentially they’re shooting for a target— and hoping to rise within a certain position,” says Stephen Powell, executive director of Mentoring USA, a not-for-profit organization that matches mentors to youth across the nation. “I think that if they don’t see it, it will be incredibly discouraging.”
Under Powell’s leadership, the organization has expand its programs in major cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Newark, New Jersey, with it recently being celebrated as one of the White House’s 2012 “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Champions of Change.”
Powell spoke with BlackEnterprise.com on six elements of great leadership that incorporate mentorship and diversity as vital parts of successful ventures:
Seeds of confidence: “In some ways what a mentor is really doing is planting a seed. And hoping that other mentors along the way, will continue to water that seed,” Powell says. Mentoring augments the self-esteem of mentees and provides them with the confidence to position themselves in high-ranking positions, which builds upon their leadership responsibilities.
Seeds of support: It (mentoring) can provide clarity to break apart complex situations and align goals through advisement. Mentoring USA partners with an organization based out of Chicago called Polished Pebbles, and through this partnership, Bloomingdales employees mentor young girls. “Two years ago during the inaugural mentoring summit, a mentee had the chance to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama,” Powell adds. “As the mentee was introducing Obama, she acknowledged the support of her mentor, who helped change her attitude and provided her with clarity for the goals she had set.”
Seeds of self-identity: In the job market, a company that has workplace diversity is more attractive to prospects. “Organizations tend to lose great talent because there is no diversity within the workplace,” Powell says.“Some people are looking for a confirmation so when they arrive at a certain point, they have a supportive fabric of people who can provide mentorship that they connect with.” If top talent cannot envision themselves working with a company due to its lack of diversity, they will not position themselves in their leadership roles and benefit from the responsibilities associated with it, Powell adds.
Seeds of self-reflection: The greatest leaders know when to become mentees. “The essence of mentoring is teaching people how to be mentees, no matter how far you are in your path professionally, personally, and spiritually,” Powell says.”One of the strengths of a mentor is being an active listener.” Receiving guidance as a mentee sets your career trajectory while exposing you to invaluable lessons.
Seeds of creative experiences: Throw away the notion that mentoring is only a formal process. “There is a lot of people in life who will receive mentoring in a very informal fashion. They’re not [all] going to be with The Boys & Girls Club, Mentoring USA, or Big Brothers, Big Sisters. They’re going to get it through things like sports,” Powell says.
Being raised by a single mother in a challenging environment, Powell received male mentorship through his coaches as a track athlete. “Having male mentors in all of my coaches, helped guide me.”
Seeds of intuitiveness: “Be as thorough as possible and do your due diligence [on any prospective task or plan of action],” Powell says. With a mentor’s guidance, you can be confident in your abilities to pursue positions in the workplace, which affords you more leadership responsibilities.