W. Austin Gardner
Mentoring in the US Army
One of the most important duties of leaders at all levels is to develop subordinates. Mentoring plays a big part in developing competent and confident future leaders. In the Army, mentoring isn't limited to "high-potentials," or a few favorites. Army leaders are taught to provide inclusive, real-life leader development for every subordinate. Because leaders don't know which of their subordinates today will be the most significant contributors and leaders in the future, they strive to provide all their subordinates with the knowledge and skills necessary to become the best they can be-for the Army and for themselves.
Mentoring begins with the leader setting the right example. An Army leader mentors people every day in a positive or negative way, depending on how he or she lives and acts on Army values. When a leader lives up to Army values, mentoring shows subordinates a mature example of values, attributes, and skills in action. It encourages them to develop their own character and leader attributes accordingly. Mentoring techniques include teaching, developmental counseling, and coaching.
Even at the top strategic level, Army leaders develop subordinates by sharing the benefit of their perspective and experience. People arriving at the Pentagon know how the Army works in the field, but regardless of what they may have read, they don't really know how the institutional Army works. Strategic leaders act as a kind of sponsor by introducing them to the important players and pointing out the important places and activities. Strategic leaders become mentors as they underwrite the learning, efforts, projects, and ideas of rising leaders. The moral responsibility associated with mentoring is compelling for all leaders; for strategic leaders, the potential significance is enormous. Mentoring by strategic leaders means giving the right people an intellectual boost so that they make the leap to operations and thinking at the highest levels. Strategic leaders aim not only to pass on knowledge but also to grow wisdom in those they mentor.