Success Connection: Mentorship and the Rise to Leadership

By Connie Johnson, Ed.D., Chief Academic Officer

CTU - The importance of networkingLast year, I was approached to participate in an executive mentoring program that matched up female leaders in my organization with an executive leader. You might ask: What appealed to me about being mentored at this point in my career? Mentoring has been hugely important in my growth and development, both personally and professionally. Understanding a perspective different from my own has kept my path to leadership interesting.

Know Your Goal

My mentor, as it turned out, was the chief executive officer of my organization. We were paired together because of our personality fit, along with my goals for the mentoring relationship. When you enter into a mentoring relationship, it is very helpful to have a specific goal or purpose. This provides both the mentor and the mentee with a focus for their time together, leading you more directly to those opportunities that help you develop strongly.

My particular interest in this relationship was to broaden my perspective about the external landscape facing education currently. In addition to achieving that goal, I developed deep respect and personal care for my mentor. It was a bonus and fortunate opportunity for me that my organization saw the value in mentoring, leading them to create this formal program.

Ask Your Professional Network

Mentors can be obtained through a more informal process as well. For example, I am currently mentoring two very talented and inspiring up-and-coming female leaders, relationships with whom evolved out of conversations. The benefit for me in these relationships is that I am learning new and innovative ways to look at situations. As well, I’m developing strong professional and personal relationships with these women. My suggestion is to be bold in asking your professional network connections for a mentoring relationship.

Know That Both Benefit

Both the mentor and the mentee learn and benefit from the mentoring experience. For women, I would propose that mentoring is extremely important as the path to leadership continues to have more men than women. Although this is changing, as noted by Laura Shin in a recent Forbes article, connecting with other women through a mentoring relationship, particularly early in a career, can be extremely helpful.

Tailor Your Mentorship

Finally, know that you can tailor mentoring relationships to be long or short, include many mentors throughout your career, and have mentors that serve different purposes. What is important is that you seek what you need. There has been much good discussion about asserting your professional essentials in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. ‘Leaning in’ for me professionally and personally means that I have had mentoring relationships that inspired, provided guidance, provoked thought and, at times, even challenged. These mentoring relationships have certainly enhanced my professional journey along the way.

For more information, check out the Google Hangout: How a Mentor Can Lead to Career Success.

CTU Faculty - Connie JohnsonConnie Johnson, Ed.D., is the Chief Academic Officer/Provost working with both online and ground degree programs. Dr. Johnson is the leader of CTU Academics and Student Affairs and brings over 20 years of experience in academics. Connect with Dr. Johnson on Twitter @DrConnieJohnson.

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