When I joined the Emerging Leaders Council, I learned that many of my peers, like me, were interested in mentoring.
I realized, though, that my outlook on mentoring was very simplistic and traditional: someone with more experience advises someone with less experience in a formal and formalized relationship.
I wanted to know more. When, where, and why did mentoring start? How has mentoring changed? What makes a mentoring relationship work?
Like a true millennial, I turned to Wikipedia.
I discovered that the term “mentor” has its roots in Greek mythology. When Odysseus leaves for the Trojan War, he entrusts Telemachus, his son, in the hands of friend and confidant Mentor. Later in The Odyssey, Goddess of War Athena, who has a soft spot for Odysseus, takes the shape and voice of Mentor when she urges Telemachus to travel abroad to determine what has happened to his father.
Many, many years later in 1699, French writer François Fénelo penned The Adventures of Telemachus, which fills in gaps in The Odyssey with the tales of Mentor and Telemachus. Think The Adventures of Telemachus is to The Odyssey what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is to Hamlet — but with a decidedly more serious, philosophical tone.
Today’s term “mentor” traces back to Fénelo’s work — a mentor being an advisor, tutor, or counselor.
In developing the Mentorship Tool Kit for the Emerging Leaders Council, I learned that this traditional definition of mentoring is giving way to more informal, but just as effective forms of mentoring.
Over the course of the summer, we’ll be sharing some examples of how Emerging Leaders Networks are making mentoring work in their communities.
In the meantime we’d like to know, what is your definition of mentoring?