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Why mentoring is unlike any other professional relationship

May 7, 2015, 6:15 PM UTC
Photograph by Maya Myers

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important to have a mentor? is written by Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.

Mentorship is powerful and incredibly useful in anyone’s career. This kind of constructive guidance is unlike any other professional relationship. But a successful mentorship requires both parties to be vulnerable. We will all experience highs and lows during the course of our career. And moving past what we previously believed to be our limits can feel uncomfortable. Yet it really is a moment to be celebrated because it marks a new stage of growth. As mentors, we need to explain that success is not a linear path—and that’s okay. As mentees we need to be willing to share the experiences we’d rather keep to ourselves.

Leadership is mentorship in action. Before I became a CEO, my definition of leadership was ‘I’m the CEO, therefore I have to know everything.’ I know view leadership as having a vision, sharing it with others, acknowledging the opportunities and challenges, and engaging others to make the vision a reality. This is when vulnerability is necessary. Sharing a vision for something and asking others to follow you is an inherently risky move. Admitting what you don’t know and asking for help is risky, too.

Leaders who lead from this perspective are those I’m most interested in learning from; the mentor I seek and hope to be. I’m committed to going beyond my limits not only because my limits become my organization’s limits, but because others see it. And whether I succeed or fail, there is a lesson to be learned along the way.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important to have a mentor?

Why you don’t need a mentor to be successful by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

4 things to consider before choosing a mentor by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.

The most important quality a mentor should have by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why women are more likely to be mentors by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

3 reasons every employee needs a mentor by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Why this AOL executive chooses her mentors — wisely by Allie Kline, CMO of AOL, Inc.