4 Important Leadership Lessons Every Mentor Needs to Teach

Keith Krach
November 27, 2016

Business mentoring has proven itself to be a valuable asset for some of the most famous entrepreneurs in recent memory. Working with a mentor can lead to higher revenue for new business leaders, increase the longevity of startups, and generate strong, mutually beneficial relationships between professionals that last for years.

One of the most important things that a protégé can learn from his or her mentor is how to be a strong leader. Leadership is a talent that generally must be learned on the job rather than in a classroom, and mentoring offers inexperienced business professionals the opportunity to find the support they need to develop positive leadership habits.

Listed below are four lessons about leadership in business that mentors should focus on imparting to protégés during the mentoring process.

1. Good leadership starts with a good team

Any talented entrepreneur with a marketable business idea can fail if he or she is not surrounded by the right people. Startup founders tend to work long hours and shoulder a bulk of the workload in the early stages of a company, but those who wish to see their fledgling business evolve into a thriving, medium-scale enterprise know that they need to be able to rely on the help of talented team members.

While many methods can be used to build a strong team, the goal always should be to build a deep talent pool of employees with a diverse range of skillsets. New business leaders should make sure that they hire dependable people who can work independently and be relied upon keep the business moving forward during difficult developmental periods, and mentees should understand that these are desired characteristics in employees.

2. Be clear about company vision

Company vision gives employees direction, especially when a business is just getting off of the ground. Knowing exactly what they are working toward can help inspire employees to work harder and push past obstacles that naturally arise during the course of doing business. Additionally, leaders who consistently keep employees in the loop can strengthen the sense of unity among a team, which increases employee engagement.

While it’s important for mentees to know the benefits of clear communication with team members, they should also know the consequences of failing to do so. Poor communication on behalf of leadership has a powerful negative effect on employee motivation, morale, and turnover. Restricted or inconsistent communication practices should never be used to intimidate workers, and they should not be carried out in an effort to mask vulnerability. Honesty between leadership and employees creates stronger bonds and facilitates better, more cohesive teamwork, while a lack of it will guarantee the opposite.

3. Self-doubt will strike—and that’s okay

No leader can be successful without confidence. Broken down to its core job description, the main responsibility of a leader is to make good decisions that guide a company in a positive direction. Without confidence, a leader cannot model conviction or steadiness to his or her employees, clients, or potential business partners, and the business will suffer for it.

Despite the relevance of confidence in a leadership role, it’s equally important for mentors to make sure that protégés understand the arrival of self-doubt at certain points is an inevitable and healthy part of being a leader. The presence of occasional self-doubt signifies that a leader maintains a realistic view of his or her abilities and can prevent brash decisions rooted in overconfidence. When self-doubt does reveal itself, leaders must acknowledge its presence but not let it derail them from the end goal. New entrepreneurs should be taught to trust their values, avoid the desire to seek validation, and make no room for excuses in the face of self-doubt.

4. Constant learning should be an ongoing goal

The most effective entrepreneurs have an important trait in common: they recognize that no matter how much success they earn for themselves, they can never learn enough about business. A company leader who thinks that he or she has enough knowledge runs the risk of becoming stagnant and quickly outperformed by more adaptive competitors. This is most especially true in the age of digital disruption.

A mentor is uniquely poised to convey this idea to a protégé by modeling this behavior. New business leaders should seek out valuable opportunities to gain knowledge in their industry, such as attending relevant lectures and seminars. They should encourage their mentees to read articles and books on subjects related to their work and to continually look for opportunities to incorporate innovative practices and ideas into business. Leaders who value lifelong learning and actively seek new information are the same leaders who make the most revolutionary changes to the sectors in which they work.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.