At some point in your career, you will be called upon to manage or mentor someone much different than you. A new hire fresh out of school. A much older co-worker who has been in your industry for decades. A peer who becomes a subordinate. While the same leadership style may not work for all audiences, nearly all successful leaders exhibit some common behaviors--embracing company structure, establishing effective and collaborative working environments and accepting responsibility and accountability--that apply to managing leaders of any age.
First, it's important for senior leadership to evaluate the skills of each manager. If you're in a position in an organization to appoint managers and help connect mentors with mentees, it's important that you identify the appropriate resource for each situation. For example, some people are natural managers who are able to jump into almost any situation and lead. Others may not have the innate ability to do this but are interested in learning and have the potential to be developed. And there are many types of leaders--each with styles that work best with different teams and environments.
Second, to be successful, managers must build strong relationships with the leaders they train. Building solid relationships may not be easy, but it's simpler than you think. As the mentor, take the time to be there. Remove judgment. Care about the success of the person you are mentoring. Both the mentor and the mentee will need to be open to a measure of vulnerability based on trust, candor and transparency.
Keep in mind that mentoring is always a learning experience for both parties. Take, for example, an older employee reporting to a younger manager. The older employee may experience an ego hit, while the younger manager may not be accustomed to wielding new power. One important element for success in this relationship is empathy on both sides. The younger manager doesn't have all the answers, and the older employee can benefit from another perspective. Begin by putting yourself in the other's place and work on building a relationship from there by finding some common ground and benefiting from your differences.
Once you have an understanding of the leader's skill set and have built a solid relationship with that leader, you must understand his or her intrinsic motivators. And no, money isn't always the best incentive. In his best-selling book "Drive," author Daniel Pink explains that motivation comes down to three elements--autonomy, mastery and purpose. In my experience, I've found all of these to be key components to success. I would also add a fourth component: passion.
When I was CEO of entreQuest, we needed to hire a receptionist. A friend recommended a woman for the job, and we scheduled a phone interview. During the interview, we discussed her career goals, and she indicated she had a love of writing. We ultimately hired her as the receptionist, and she did a great job. A month into the position, she came to me and said, "I have the job under control, and I still have a lot of time. I love to write, and I see we're putting out proposals as well as documents to our clients--would you mind if I got involved and looked at them from an editing standpoint?" After a month, she had greatly improved the quality of our proposals and other documents going out the door. She came to me again and asked, "Is there anything more that I can do? I still have time." So I invited her to write a blog. Over the course of the next five months, she wrote content for four company blogs, each from a different voice. Her position evolved from receptionist to director of communications. She was a prime example of what happens when you really work with people to help them bring their passion to the workplace.
Regardless of age, managing leaders involves more than delegating tasks--it requires identifying skills, building relationships, focusing on passion, encouraging autonomy, allowing for mastery of craft and connecting to a greater purpose. Effective leaders are essential in building strong organizations. And building a solid, successful organization should be the end goal for everyone.