Magoosh GRE

Leadership and Mentoring

| November 20, 2012


‘People make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better’. Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

What makes a good leader? Can u make a leader or do you just have to be born with the attributes that make you a good leader. Every leader is unique, due to their approaches, qualities and leadership styles. Leaders exist in all aspects of life, from head of the household to the leader of a company. Their roles maybe different but overall purpose is the same, to lead his team.

Mentoring can be quite different due to the role, but often overlaps with leadership. Mentors also exist in different contexts. Mentors can exist in an academic environment, work atmosphere as well as informal setting between friends.

For the remainder of this assignment we will discuss the definitions of leadership and mentoring in the context of different literature. We will be comparing these topics and contrasting the definitions.

We will then be discussing the qualities of good leaders and mentors and highlighting the negative aspects which can surface. We will then apply these qualities to ourselves and analyse how we can make good leaders or mentors depending on the context.

Literature Review on Leadership

Due to the diverse aspects of leadership there is no set definition on leadership.

“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.” (Warren Bennis).

According to Max Landsberg in ‘Tools of Leadership’ (2003), leadership can be defined in five areas.

  1. Leadership is process of initiating change and then controlling that change. This highlights that leaders need to develop the organisation they are in charge of and evolve it into something bigger and better.
  2. Leadership is being creative. This reflects that leadership is about new ideas and innovation.
  3. Leadership is about being intrinsic. The ability to be interpersonal within their team, delegating responsibility to other team members and deal with people on a more personal level.
  4. Leadership should be effective. What good is a leader if no one listens to what he has to say?
  5. Leadership is developed with time. A good leader will make the right decisions at the right time, when they are needed.

Fred E. Fiedler and Martin M. Chemers in ‘Improving Leadership Effectiveness’, (1984) gave a different definition.

‘…the leadership role or function involves the motivation, direction, supervision, guidance and evaluation of others for the purpose of accomplishing a task.’

Fiedler and Chemers looked at different aspects of leadership. The ability of being motivational is a very important aspect of leading a team. If you can’t stimulate your team to be productive, then the existence of your team would be irrelevant. It mentions the need for direction. This outlines the importance of having a target or aim, which a good leader will have in mind when doing any task. It is only when they can visualise their goals that they can achieve it. Supervision is a very important aspect of leadership. A good leader should know what each member of their team is doing in terms of the task at hand. This can include having certain rules, principles and boundaries, which the leader must observe that their team is abiding by to maintain structure and control. It is not enough to tell your team what to do and expect it done. A leader needs to guide their team, by identifying weaknesses and turning into something positive. This is complimented by evaluating performance, which can indicate how a team is doing what a leader should be focussing on.

Every individual will have their own interpretation of the definition on leadership, which leads to the different approaches adopted by different leaders.

Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leaders have the opinion that their team requires direction. This quality can be seen as a positive and a negative. Authoritarian leader will provide guidance and direction when attempting to achieve goals but do not always consider the need to be lenient. According to Northouse (2009), this is a positive quality when individuals in team need supervision due to their irresponsible behaviour or laid back attitude, therefore the leader must be told what to do or not to do either by incentives or disciplinary action. This quality can also be portrayed as a negative when leaders do not give room for creativity or opinion as they are too focussed on doing tasks in their own way. Anderson (2010) indicated that this leadership approach does not give individuals to voice their opinions or ideas especially when trying to find solutions, due to the leader view that their ideas are the best. This can lead strained relationships between leaders and their teams, when individuals are not given the space to express them self, which can lead to lack of motivation.

Democratic Leadership

This leadership style is concerned with a trusting approach, where the leader will delegate the work and duties and trust his members to complete the task at hand. This approach allows the members to make decisions on their own initiative and encourages them to be creative. The leader has to know and trust that his team are capable and have the ability to perform. Trust is built on good communication and having a good relationship with your subordinates. This approach of leadership is very motivational as it encourages members to voice their opinion and views, whilst knowing that will be considered. This makes individuals feel valued and will increase satisfaction and self worth. However this approach has negative effects as discussed by Northouse (2009), who mentions that due to the trust element of this approach, it would not be always possible for a task to be completed when there is a time restriction, when every individual has their own way of doing things. In times of urgency an authoritarian approach is more efficient when everyone is told what to do when to do it and how to do it. The democratic approach requires patience from the leader’s point of view to allow the team to do the task in their way.

Laissez-Fair Leadership

This approach of leadership is about leaders giving full freedom to their team to fully work at their own initiative, without any influence or pressures.

According to Anderson (2010) the laissez fair approach is ideal when creativity is a key element of the project. It does not limit individual vision and creativity. For this approach to be effective, it is vital that each member is responsible for motivating themselves to get the job done. This can create a problem when individuals are not motivated and cannot complete the task at hand.

Ethical Leadership

This approach focuses on ethical aspects of a leader’s characteristics. According to Northouse (2009), characteristics such as honesty, reliability, integrity are vital elements of ethical leadership. This allows others to trust their leader and show a sense of confidence in terms of decision making. If these characteristics did not exist within a leader, their followers would not take the leader very seriously or have the same amount of respect. This could lead to a lack of authority.

Ethical leaders need to have a positive impact due to their charisma and reliability. By presenting themselves as reliable, honesty and trustworthy leaders can gain confidence from others, which makes them more credible in terms of their views and decisions.

Literature Review on Mentoring

‘Mentoring is a term generally used to describe a relationship between a less experienced

individual, called a mentee or protégé, and a more experienced individual known as a mentor. Traditionally, mentoring is viewed as a dyadic, face-to-face, long-term relationship between a supervisory adult and a novice student that fosters the mentee’s professional, academic, or personal development’ Donaldson, Ensher, & Grant-Vallone, (2000).

Mentor is taken from the Greek word for ‘male guide’, which is now used to describe someone who gives guidance. As described above the relation of a mentor and mentee is that of supervision to achieve a sense of personal development. This is also the definition given by Kogler-Hill et al, (1989) who described mentoring when an experienced member of an organisation guides a lesser experienced individual. Mumford (1997) also defined mentoring as an ‘advisory relationship’.

This was broadened in the definition by Olian et al. (1988) who defined mentoring as ‘ a senior member of the profession or organisation who shares values, provides emotional support, career counselling, information and advice, professional and organisational sponsorship, facilitates access to key organisations and professional networks’.

However Levinson et al (1978) described the mentor relationship to be ‘one of the most complex and developmentally important’. This was due to the fact mentoring was not a formal role so cannot be given a narrow definition but was dependant on the individual relationship and the purpose behind it.

Characteristics of Good Leaders

As we looked at the different types of leadership styles, they all have different qualities which appear to be vital to their role. A good leader should be competent to complete the task at hand. No matter which leadership style you choose to adopt the leader needs to have the ‘know how’ to do whatever it is they are trying to do. If they are not competent in the task how can they possibly brief their team who are reliant on the leader to guide them?

A good leader needs to be confident in what they are doing. It is only when they have self belief that they can motivate their team. In times of difficulty individuals will look to the leader for assurance and guidance. If the leader is hesitant, insecure and doubting them self, how can they boost the self esteem of the people who they are leading?

Bass’s Model of transformational leadership (1980’s) highlighted characteristics that a good leader should possess. These characteristics were split into four areas.

  1. Idealised Influence (Vision)
  2. Inspirational Motivation (Charisma)
  3. Intellectual Stimulation
  4. Individualised Consideration

A leader needs to be influential and motivational if they are to push their team to achieve what they have set out to do. In order to be influential the leader needs to have a vision in mind, which they can then persuade their team to believe. Once the vision is shared there can be a sense of direction. In order to be influential a leader must show charisma and have a personality that shows presence.

Charismatic leaders are most effective as they have a positive effect on their subordinates. However some leaders will appear to be very confident, but they will have no substance or depth in what they appear to be capable of. As the famous saying ‘they can talk the talk but can they walk the walk?’ They can give orders; makes themselves look good and take the praise for the hard work that others have put in. This behaviour is known as Pseudo- Charismatic.

Good leaders need to intellectually stimulating in terms of their subordinates. They need to know how to deal with and handle different people in different situations, as everyone is different and responds in different ways to different techniques. They need to be encouraging and making people think about things that they would not usually visualise. Encourage people to think outside the box and to go beyond their usual thinking and understanding in order to be creative and solve problems.

It is often said that to get respect you have to give it. This is what is highlighted when looking at individualised consideration. Leaders have to genuinely care about their team. They have to be sympathetic to their issues and well being. They have to communicate with them appropriately and effectively, whilst showing respect. Leaders should not be influences by prejudices or treat people differently. Even is individuals are different due to ethnicity, disability or any other element, leaders should turn their diversity into a positive aspect as they bring something different to the table. Be it a different experience, skill or just personality. Diversity should be embraced.

Characteristics of Good Mentors

In order to be a capable mentor there certain attributes they should adopt. They have to have a genuine passion of developing their mentees, as well as developing themselves. They have to be committed to the development of their mentee and communicate well and create a relationship based on trust. They have to understand their mentee’s needs and requirement, as well as their weaknesses in order to help them grow. They also have to competent in the field their mentee wants to learn about and have the relevant experience behind them in order to guide their mentee effectively. They should clarified goals which need to be targeted in order to get the mentee to exactly where they want to go. There has to be a sense of professionalism, but in good proportion. Too much professionalism can make the mentee feel intimidated so it is good to have a balance.

Brockbank and McGill (2006) highlighted some general qualities, which can be seen as the most vital ones of all. Mentors need to be good listeners, if they are to guide their mentee. They should take in what exactly the mentee is trying to achieve and understand their requirements and issues. They should show compassion to their weaknesses and help them to develop them into strengths. They should give feedback in terms of constructive criticism but not so much that their mentee’s esteem is lowered. They should question their views so the mentee can think more critically about them self and challenge their own ideas in order to assist their own development.




Self Reflection

There have many times where I have taken the role of a mentor, often in a work atmosphere as well as an academic environment. I work part time as a finance officer and have been in this position for the last three year. My job comes naturally to me and I am left to go about my role without any interference from management or other members of staff. Due to the increase of work load, my manager decided that it was time I employed an assistant, who could assist me with my work and take on my role when I was out of the office. So from last year I have had to train my assistant to do my job. My overall goal was to develop her into a finance officer. My first step was to create a relationship and try to understand what she was like as a person. How I could communicate with her? I arranged informal meetings with her, usually in a coffee shop. We would talk generally, so she would relax around and not feel intimidated. Then I would gradually discuss work matters. Then I would ask her to switch roles and explain to me how things needed to be done. She would often get things confused or wrong, but I would wait until she had finished discussing then question why she would do things in that particular way. Often when she thought about it she would realise where she had gone wrong.

There were times when my assistant would get overwhelmed especially in times when there were deadlines to meet. I would realise that there was obviously issues that needed to be dealt with. So then I would listen to the issues she was facing, such as there is an issue in accounts that she could not seem to fix, or there was an issue with a client and she did not know how to deal with it. I would assist her and guide her until she would be able to do it herself.

Nine months have passed now, and I have been on a three week leave. This time last year I would never be able take leave from the office, but now my assistant can pretty much fill my place when I am out of the office. There are very rarely occasions now when my assistant asks for help. I can brief her on a task and I know she would complete it to a very high standard.

I took some time and did the questionnaire based on studies of Marquadt and Loan (2006) titled ‘how ready are you to be a mentor?’ I scored 145 out of a possible 150. This confirmed to me that I am a capable mentor, as I have learnt from experience. I hope that I get the opportunity to mentor other people, as this gives me the chance to develop my people skills whilst developing other peoples.









  • Northouse, P. (2001). Leadership theory and practice, 2nd edition, London: Sage Publications.
  • Chemers, M.M, Fiedler, F.E (1984) Importance of leadership effectiveness, 2nd edition, New York: John Wiley & sons Inc.
  • Gold, J, Thorpe, R, Mumford, A. (2010) Leadership and management development, 5th edition, London: Chartered Institute of personal Development
  • Brockbank, A., McGill, I. (2006) Facilitating Reflective Learning through Mentoring and Coaching.London
    • Pask, R. and Joy B. (2007) mentoring-coaching a guide for education professionals. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
    • Anderson, M. (2010) The Leadership Book. Canada: Pearson Education
    • Bass, B.M. & Avolio, B. J. (1996) Postscripts: Recent Developments for improving Organisational Effectiveness, Sage.
    • Bass, B. M., Riggio, R. M. (2006) Transformational Leadership. New JerseyLawrence Erlbaum Associates.


  • Meginson, D. (2006) Mentoring in Action: A Practical Guide. London: Kogan Page Ltd.


Landsberg, M. (2003), The tools of leadership. London: Profile Books

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Category: Free Essays, International Relations