Want to be a Leader?
Learn to be a Role Model, Mentor and Coach
By Dr. Lucille Maddalena

Assuming a high-level management position puts you squarely in the eye of every employee below you. The bright up-and-comers want to know how you succeeded, what they can learn from you, and how they can encourage you to support their goals. Whether you want the scrutiny or not, everything you do is observed as others seek to emulate your actions. The wise leader recognizes these new responsibilities and prepares for it.

Among the many hats worn by upper-level managers are the three that may be difficult to separate: Role Model, Mentor and Coach. To help you establish yourself as a leader, to build the followers necessary to assume the mantel of leader, you must understand the difference between these actions essential to an effective leader. Learning how you are viewed, what others expect from you and how you can identify new and potentially valuable contributors to your team will benefit you in many ways.

When selecting a Role Model, the young employee is seeking skills and actions that they recognize as effective in specific situations. Role Models are not chosen or necessarily made aware that their actions are closely monitored. In most cases, not all actions are worth modeling of someone who may be referred to as a Role Model: only some reactions, approaches or techniques may stand out as examples of best practices to be emulated.

Leaders interested in continued advancement in a large corporation know that it is important to build a network of supporters to move forward. You can’t be a leader without followers. The most effective way to inspire someone to want to follow you is for you to show respect for their need to develop and make an effort to assist them to achieve their goals.

Martin Webster states in his article HOW TO BE A GOOD LEADERSHIP ROLE MODEL:
“To motivate the team you need to start seeing yourself as a role model. As a good example to others. A good leadership role model sets high standards of accountability for themselves and their behaviours. Before motivating your team be sure to motivate yourself. Be the sort of person others can get behind and support. Be a good role model.” 

Webster describes the attributes of a good Leadership Role Model:
1. Practices self-reflection – They set exacting standards for themselves and others.
2. Is self-aware – They are open to learning and new ideas.
3. Shows empathy – They think carefully about the impact they have on others.
4. Has vision, courage and integrity – They communicate their vision and expectations clearly so people know where they’re heading.
5. Is ready to lead – They lead by example. They are honest, sincere and practice what they preach.

Mentors are volunteer for the role because they acknowledge the importance of dedicate the time to guide a someone new to the task. A Mentor will openly share personal experiences that contributed to their growth and development, invest the time to listen to the plans of the Mentee, and develop a plan to work together during a set period of time. Mentors are rarely the Mentee’s direct manager, although the Mentee’s manager should be a critical part of a successful Mentor program.

Mentees benefit most from working with the Mentor’s network to gain a broader understanding of the job and the company. A Mentor often assumes the role of Advocate for the Mentee as Mentoring can help improve career development, simplify increased responsibility, build confidence and help individuals learn and grow within an organization.

Chip Bell states in his book MANAGER AS MENTOR:
To grow is fundamentally the act of expanding, an unfolding into greatness. And so expansiveness is the most important attribute of a great mentoring relationship. Mentoring effectiveness is all about clearing an emotional path to make the learning journal as free of boundaries as possible. Change is a door opened from the inside. But it is the mentoring relationship that delivers the key to that door.

Mentoring typically falls into two categories: non-directive mentoring, where the mentor acts as a sounding board, catalyst and role model, and sponsor mentoring, where a senior executive will promote, oversee and control a protege’s career. Often, a mixture of both models can provide the most effective support for organizational talent


In an Harvard Business Review article, Monique Valcour recommends every leader to practice the basics of coaching.

 If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at something that is personally meaningful. If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely  feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. Regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential. In fact, according to recent research, the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching.”

It is common today for a leader to have a professional Executive Coach for personal development. It is just as important to recognize when a member of your team or a new employee would benefit from a professional coach.

Leadership Coaches can be internal, often members of the company Human Relations team, or external, independent contractors with the qualifications and experience most suited to the individual to be coached. Coaching helps employees make the most of their potential and performance capabilities by developing skills competence and addressing identified issues. Coaching initiatives tend to have shorter timelines than mentoring programs, with more finite and tangible learning objectives

A typical Leadership Coaching program with an external coach is six months or 20-hours of coaching. Clear goals are identified typically following a 360 Review and professional personality assessment. The Coachee’s manager is engaged in the process by reviewing goals and providing feedback to the Coachee and Coach at critical points during the Coaching event.

Forbes magazine published an article William Arruda discussing Why You Need to Hire a Coach… stating that if you don’t have a coach,
“you could be limiting your career success. That’s because coaches help you identify and focus on what’s important, which accelerates your success.” 

According to coaches.com,  the work of a good coach is to:
• Create a safe environment in which people see themselves more clearly;
• Identify gaps between where the client is and where the client needs or wants to be
• Ask for more intentional thought, action and behavior changes than the client would have asked of him or herself
• Guide the building of the structure, accountability, and support necessary to ensure sustained commitment.”

Arruda refers to The United Kingdom Coaching Strategy which describes the role of the sports coach as one that “enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to a degree that may not have been possible if left to his/her own endeavours.” 

“Innovative companies understand that coaching can help career-minded professionals increase their performance at work. They invest in coaching for their senior leaders and high potentials.
Coaching also has an impact on an organization’s financial performance; according to an ICF and HCI study, 60% of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures report their revenue to be above average, compared to their peer group.” 

Advancement into upper management moves the emphasis of your efforts from the technical, tactical work, to strategic initiates that often require greater teamwork. These social skills are not part of the academic program in most engineering and high-tech programs. It is up to the new manager who has exhibited the technical skills warranting an advancement to know display the talent to build teams and developing staff. There is now a need for greater focus on interpersonal skills, relationship building, delegation and collaboration.

When conducting interviews to compile a 360 Review on a newly promoted upper-level manager I ask contributors to the Review to respond to the following question: “Does this person stay enmeshed in the detail, in the tactics of the work, or is s/he able to present the big picture, to inspire others to take greater responsibility and work independently by clearly explaining the strategy and benefits of long-term goals?”

The most common response to describe someone new to the role is that the individual is just beginning to engage in greater dialogue with team members, keeping them informed of the overall progress, while holding them accountable for assigned work.

To be a successful leader, invest the time to learn to recognize young talent, seek opportunities to allow new staff to test and expand their skills. You can do this by recognizing opportunities to shine as a Role Model, to serve as a Mentor or find a suitable Mentor for key staff, and utilize the services of a professional Coach to for yourself and those ready to assume a greater role in the organization.