“No man is an island,” they say, but they don’t just mean that no man or woman should live alone. That well-worn term also relates to the notion that men and women are lifelong learners who require someone to lead them through life and assist them in making sound decisions. Furthermore, when these same men and women grow older, they have the opportunity to mentor someone younger and less experienced than themselves. People’s desire to feel connected, appreciated, and taught by someone more knowledgeable than themselves has given rise to many concepts such as mentoring.
Mentoring, or the process of mentorship, is essentially a growing, strengthening bond that develops between a mentor, who is more experienced, not necessarily older, but certainly wiser, and his or her protégé, a mentee or someone who is less experienced and wise and thus requires guidance from the mentor. The concept of mentorship has a long and illustrious history. In reality, it was Homer’s Odyssey that popularised the term “mentor” through the figure Mentor, who, despite appearing to be an elderly man, is actually used by Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, to help Odysseus’ son Telemachus navigate a tough period in his life.
In different cultures and periods of history, the concept of mentorship takes on diverse shapes. Pederasty was a concept developed by the Ancient Greeks, in which teachers may groom young men for greatness. The guru is a notion found in Hindu and Buddhist religions, in which a wise, devout man serves as the spiritual leader of someone who is misguided or needs to know the Truth. As clergy or deeply spiritual persons guide their various flocks or followers, the concept of discipleship forms both history and current practise in Judaism and Christianity. Finally, an economic framework was developed in mediaeval guilds to allow apprentices to learn from guild masters and therefore ensure the continuation of their individual professions.
There have been numerous well-known mentor-protégé partnerships throughout history. Consider the trio of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, three great philosophers who actually came before each other. That is, Socrates was Plato’s tutor, and Plato was Aristotle’s mentor. Alexander the Great was a student of Aristotle. The Christian faiths attribute much of their spread to St. Paul’s letters and preaching. Dr. Dre, a rapper, is a mentor to younger artists Eminem and Snoop Dogg in the music industry. Sir Laurence Olivier, the late British actor, served as a mentor to multi-award winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins in the film industry.
Even in fiction, there are mentors and protégés. There are the legendary Star Wars epics’ Jedi knights, where Qui-Gon Jinn tutors Obi-Wan Kenobi; when Qui-Gon Jinn dies, Obi-Wan Kenobi takes on Anakin Skywalker; and Yoda mentors Luke Skywalker, Anakin’s son. In the Star Wars universe, the master-padawan relationship is more akin to that of a mentor and protégé than it is to that of combat or sparring partners.
Mentoring programmes are also available in the workplace to assist individuals in improving their performance. For example, in new-hire mentorship, new employees are assigned to experienced employees in order to help them perform more effectively and become acquainted with the company’s culture and climate. Existing employees who show promise are taken on by experienced mentors who may be interested in seeing them move higher up the organisational hierarchy in high-potential mentorship.
These are only a few of the many facts about mentorship. Many mentoring and mentorship programmes are available, and you can learn more about them by searching the Internet.