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Article: Key Qualities of Great Mentors Related Resources

Key Qualities of Great Mentors
by Duncan Brodie

Managers and leaders are increasingly being asked to become mentors for emerging leaders. Mentoring is both challenging and rewarding yet not everyone makes a great mentor. There are certain qualities that are necessary to be a great mentor, what are they?


The first key quality of a great mentor is enthusiasm. Managers and leaders are often asked to mentor as part of a management development programme or worse still told to do it. Unless you are choosing to do it and seeing the real value for you and the individual you are mentoring it will become a chore and you will lack enthusiasm.

Before deciding whether to be a mentor ask yourself what your motive is.


If you want to mentor, you need to be someone who is approachable. A mentor who is intimidating, unable to build rapport and put people at ease will not be a huge success. They may have great knowledge, experience and skills but if they are not approachable, this counts for nothing.

Useful Experience

Mentors are generally people who have succeeded in a particular area that you want to achieve in. In fact one main difference that is often highlighted between a mentor and a coach is that the mentor is an expert.

Being an expert has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that they will be able to bring real life experiences to the discussions, highlight the pitfalls so that you can avoid them and they can usually point you to resources that speed up your progress. There are disadvantages too. Firstly the mentor may have been at your level when things were vastly different (e.g. in the days before computers) and secondly they may want to tell you what to do.

When looking for a mentor be as clear as you can about what you need. If you are considering being a mentor get clear on what it is you can offer in terms of useful experience.

Hold Confidentiality

Successful mentoring will get into some significant issues, so the mentor will need to be able to hold confidentiality. The individual being mentored needs to be assured 100% that anything that is discussed during mentoring session's stays confidential.


One thing that successful people often lack is sufficient time to do all that needs to be done. If they are under continuous pressure to deliver and their calendar starts to become busy, mentoring can sometimes be the first thing to be taken out of the diary. Good mentors recognise that the success of the relationship depends on regular scheduled meetings and will make the commitment to protect the time for mentoring others.

Mentoring is hugely rewarding and challenging for both the mentor and the individual being mentored. Like all things, not every manager or leader is cut out for mentoring. Before mentoring make sure that you have the key qualities to make it a success.

Duncan Brodie may be contacted at

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements Ltd (G&A) works with individuals, teams and organisations to develop their management and leadership capability. Sign up for his free e-course and monthly newsletter at


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