Mentors crucial in guiding tomorrow’s force

Col. Jorge Acevedo
435th Logistics Readiness Group commander

***image1***Why does the military need good mentors? I’m sure each of us can remember instances when our parents took time to patiently explain things to us as we grew up. We even acknowledge how big of an impact they had in shaping the person we are today.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that those in leadership positions assume a similar role as they nurture and groom subordinates.
However, to me the ideal mentor in today’s military is focused on more than enhancing someone’s career; he or she is also preparing our replacements to fill the roles of change agents to meet the transformational challenges of tomorrow.

Successful leaders at all levels of supervision — civilians, enlisted and officers — clearly recognize the awesome responsibilities of mentoring their subordinates. They make time to coach their personnel on the various educational steps to take and the follow-on assignments to pursue.
All of these actions are purposely directed toward achieving professional success.

While the most visible actions of these mentors are focused on professional development, their impact on the personal development side should not be underestimated.

One practice commonly used by senior leaders, which I’ve noticed has a tremendous impact on the personal development of others, is sharing personal experiences, including successes and failures.
This sense of reality is very important to the up-and-coming personnel, especially since some authors of today’s leadership books attest that 85 percent of current leaders were influenced by other leaders.

So the mentorship approach of senior leaders goes a long way to instill trust in them, their goals and the values they profess.
I believe that this type of mentoring will best arm our replacements with the tools to cope with the uncertainties of the future.
From my perspective, the readiness of our military personnel to tackle current and future transformation challenges is a direct reflection of their ability to take charge, encourage innovation and overcome stumbling blocks for the sake of introducing new ideas. In the business world, these folks are typically called “change agents.”

While some may argue the military is not run as a business, we certainly can apply some of the basic change-agent concepts in helping us transform our military.

Leaders who value these principles are routinely seen promoting innovation and collaboration. This approach not only allows them to set high expectations, but also to create a real wining-team sense. Coupled with the energy of an enthusiastic and positive mentor, you can generate unstoppable change agents.

Our armed forces rely heavily on the important role leaders play in mentoring our future leaders and on their ability to prepare these leaders for the transformational challenges they will most definitely face. Good mentoring is a crucial ingredient in forging the makeup of those who will replace us all as leaders.