Learning to Lead Through Mentoring

Image courtesy of Rachel Cherry Photographer

Image courtesy of Rachel Cherry Photographer

Leadership can be a difficult skill to define but most of us know almost instinctively when we see or experience poor leadership. Research in the US and UK has shown that excellent leadership impacts positively on profitability, with incomes increased 200 - 300% compared with organisations with good leaders. So what is leadership and is this a skill that can be taught?

“Leadership is a process of social influence which maximises the efforts of others towards an achievement or goal”

Web Definition

Leadership is a distinctive set of skills and responsibilities which may overlap but are normally quite different to management skills. As we begin what many are calling the Fourth Industrial Age, what we have previously accepted as good leadership will probably need to adapt.

“Ensuring successful adaptation against a backdrop of increasing uncertainty and complexity means leadership becomes less about directive structured approaches seeking predictable outcomes and more about empowering others to make effective and timely decisions.”

Giles Hutchins Leadership of the Future, The Guardian


And now the tricky question: Can leadership be taught? Many organisations and we see this particularly in the UK construction sector, seem to believe that leadership ability comes naturally or that it can be developed while undertaking a management role. I believe that leadership skills can be fostered and taught and that we will need a wider range of leaders to meet our future needs.

While commentators differ on exactly what constitutes key leadership skills, here’s a list of the attributes which many agree on:

  1. Awareness
  2. Accountability
  3. Confidence
  4. Optimism
  5. Empathy
  6. Creativity
  7. Positivity
  8. Trustworthiness
  9. Communication
  10. Responsibility

Interestingly the majority of the skills needed for optimal leadership are also needed in good mentors and these can be developed through effective mentoring relationships particularly in a structured programme.

"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé or mentee)." (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007)

Mentoring builds leadership skills by requiring participants to actively listen, which helps with building Empathy and Communication skills. It helps to create regular Reflective Practice encouraging greater Self Awareness. As a mentor, it is important not to jump into the role of directing the mentee but to act as a sounding board helping the partner to better understand themselves while gaining confidence in their own perspective and judgement.

Trustworthiness is built into the process as the rapport between the partners develops. And within the FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme model, we have encouraged Accountability through the use of coaching techniques to identify goals and implement an action plan.

Mentoring offers huge opportunities to grow the leadership skills required from the people already in your business, also allowing people who may not yet be in a supervisory or managerial position to use the skills and competencies required.

Whether mentoring is delivered as an in-house programme or external opportunity it is worth considering the use of this 3,000-year-old strategy as a way of learning to lead.


Built By Us is on a mission to connect diverse talent to construction businesses, support companies on their journey to becoming inclusive workplaces and develop leaders through mentoring.

Contact us to find out how we can help.