“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not to give them your image but to help them create their own”
By Umer Raza
Mentoring is a buzzword at least in the corporate circles. Though closely linked with teaching but has one very significant difference. Teacher has “Greater Knowledge” Mentor has “Greater Perspective”. Since Knowledge and Perspective are not mutually exclusive hence they can (rather should) be in one person at the same time. Mentoring and teaching can thus be interchangeably expressed. Mentors are also known to poke their nose in the personal development of their mentee. So when a person needs, perhaps a holistic growth and development, mentors can be the answer.
Since teaching seems a little old fashioned so modernity demands calling it, become one, getting one and being known as one’s – Mentor.
Who is your mentor, what do you know about mentoring, reverse mentoring, mentoring is changing lives and how do you mentor are just a few common phrases and questions asked around the knowledge and corporate intellectual circles. Reverse mentoring is also a new technique, which means that a senior person gets mentored by a junior less experienced colleague or friend.
I am, too, amongst those who had been mentored and are mentoring others. However, in this article I am focusing on a troubled and deceptive path mentoring can take.
Mentors are people who can do a lot to the people whom they are mentoring. The world’s most significant and talked about mentor – mentee relationship is that of Plato and Aristotle. One becomes a reflection of one’s mentor, and may (and should) exceed from the knowledge and perspective of one’s mentor. One matrix of the success of a mentor is a refined version of themselves in their mentees. Another is of course a new modal of success that a mentee gives birth to from within himself. For some mentors this refined version and new modal of their mentee is a problem as it is what becomes a cause of threat, danger and even loss of personal superiority over the mentee for the mentor. This happens for two reasons one – when mentor is baseless or his knowledge and teachings are based on his own life’s complexities and second a mentee comes too close to the mentor, learns too much and starts evaluating the mentor on the stuff the mentor has taught him or her. This closeness dawns on him a dilapidated reality of the mentor, which on certain occasions is not so entertaining and peaceful.
If you study life of Malcom X (his muslim given name was Malik Shahbaz). He was a firebrand orator during the 1950s and early part of 1960s in USA. A black movement leader and a convert who popularized the term Afro American and hated to be called Negro, that most black Americans were called at that time. He was transformed by a man called Elija Muhammad (Elija Muhammad claimed divine guidance and prophethood). Malcom was totally transformed in life by this person. He was so in debited to this man that he was ready to die on his behalf. There are in fact some harsh details of their lives, but for the purpose of this article it would suffice to know that Elija Muhammad was a mentor of Malcom and turned out to control every aspect of the life of Malcom. During this time Malcom grew so large through his teachings that even Elija Muhammad started considering Malcom as a threat. Later Malcom broke with Elija and continued his own black movement and teachings and started to understand Islam even better. He at the time grew larger than his mentor in the public eye and understood true version of Islam once he was out of the influence of his mentor. Elija Muhammad and the closet associates of Elija not only became jealous, felt threatened but in fact planned to assassinate Malcom as he came to know too much about the personal life of Elija Muhammad being too close to him (the mentor). Malcom was finally assassinated at the age of 40, just after one year from his separation from Elija Muhammad.
If we look around in our local perspective. The mentor mentee relationship has a crude shape of “Peer” and “Mureed”. The people proudly call themselves a “Mureed” of some one (Mureed – a term used to describe a person who is a follower of certain religious or higher social personality – and that higher religious of social personality they follow is call Peer). This association demands a very strict observance of the rules and commands by the peer to the mureed. The words and orders of Peer are final and binding upon the mureed to follow. This is akin to controlling the lives. Certain of our modern Mentors tend to take control of the lives of their mentees and mentees without opening up their faculties of mind (observance, reading, knowledge) keep following their Mentors/Peers. Some times this is done intentionally and on others the Mureed just falls into his credo out of personal ignorance and lack of personal identity.
There happen to be many such mentors/peers around us. I have had the experience of being in a company of such a person who was a mentor and later never hesitated to be referred as a Peer.
The interesting thing about some modern and corporate mentors/peers is that they always refer to Plato and Aristotle and hinge upon the civility of leadership qualities. That suggests that a leader is one who leaves behind even a better leader then himself. Yet when it comes to themselves, may be not all but most, fall apart in either following their own teaching or are confused about the true knowledge and wisdom and thus fall a victim of their own shortsightedness, greed, hunger for fame or ignorance. Such mentors are also very smart in mind and behavioral controls and learn very deeply the art of connecting the missing links in any individual’s personal life. This helps them to exploit those links for a better control over their mentees (mureeds)
Another interesting thing about such mentors is that they do not like anyone questioning them or saying no to certain of their “points of order”. Such mentors can be called “deception mentors” and it is fascinating that they are deceived by their own idea of knowledge.
This is the mentor part though, but on the other side of coin, mistake is made by the mentees too. A mentee should remain a mentee and not the “Mureed” (the term as explained above) in strict sense of the word. A mentor is to help mentees to create their own image in life and not to disappear in the image of mentor. A mentee must understand this while following any mentor and take caution in 1) not making his mentor his God Father 2) not to go too close to the mentor’s life as there might be stains on his face……which, being human, are on everyone’s face. These stains are only visible when you reach closer. A mentor is good, as far as you are a) not getting too close b) and not giving him the right to decide about your life.
Your life is yours do not give a mentor the chance to deceive you. Stay awake and away, or else you may dissolve in his image, which may be deceptive and lose your own, which is pure.