07 Dec What do you think of you as a leader?

I have a mentor who says that he only needs to figure out one thing during an interview:  Is the person a giver or a taker? 

It amazes me that very few up and coming leaders say they have ever been mentored.  I contend mentoring goes both ways, and I believe the relationship has to be initiated by the mentee.  That is, a mentor has to be selected based on the mentee’s perceived fit.

LeaderMtI also believe that if you have more career years behind you than in front of you, and you aren’t mentoring, you have to ask why you’re not more approachable.

I had the good fortune of climbing a Colorado 14er this summer with Mike Petschel, my mentee from the University of Colorado Denver Boots to Suits program.  I suspect he thinks he’s gained more than me from the relationship, but I can assure you, the relationship is so reciprocal, I often feel I am taking more than giving.

Creating and building a successful career is more daunting than ever.  You’ve learned a lot in your career, so think about giving back.  I can assure you, you’ll learn that you still have much more to learn!

With the holidays fast approaching, I’d like to offer a suggestion – instead of giving gift baskets or bottles of wine to your team members, customers, and other business partners, give them something that will truly help them advance their career.  Consider something that will help them grow and develop – be it my book On Self-Reliant Leadership – or another great one out there.

The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership was written to help leaders develop self-reliance to create powerful futures through a confluence of Sparta’s discipline, Socrates’ self-awareness, Aristotle’s courage, Emerson’s self-reliance, and Thoreau’s reflective seclusion. Self Reliant Leadership is synonymous with knowing which questions to ask yourself, and having the courage to answer them and act.

The book has received praise from leaders I greatly admire like one of my mentors, Bud Ahearn:

Notwithstanding your generation or your state of life – student, new hire, young professional, captain of industry, buck private, or general – this book will enrich your mind and ignite the spiritual forces of your leadership. Jan Rutherford is at once a fire-hardened leader, an inspiring storyteller, and a contemplative scholar. His treatment of Self-Reliant Leadership is the hypergolic fuel that will move you and your organization from excellence to extraordinary, from success to significance.

-Joseph A. “Bud” Ahearn, Major General U.S. Air Force (Retired), CH2M HILL vice chairman, emeritus

All the best for a Joyous Holiday Season!


  • Nicholas Harding
    Posted at 09:13h, 08 December Reply

    Great article! Just one thing, mentee is not a word in my Webster’s. The correct name for the relationship is mentor and protégé or protégée.

  • Jan Rutherford
    Posted at 09:21h, 08 December Reply

    Thanks for the note, Nick. I just looked “mentee” up – new word since 1965 – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentee

    Since Google has it, it has to be correct, right?!

    a person who is advised, trained, or counseled by a mentor.

  • Theresa Heinsler
    Posted at 13:31h, 08 December Reply

    We’re all givers and takers,though some seem to favor more of one than the other.
    I constantly use information and good ideas others are willing to share, but there aren’t many who do that. Most are on a giant ego trip that wants to put down anyone they think might outshine them. For the same reason, there aren’t too many who are willing to listen to others, or to learn from whatever source. Again, the old ego problem rears its ugly head.
    Great minds are knowledge and truth seekers, not primarily glory hounds, and there aren’t too many of them either. They are also independent thinkers, and in that sense, leaders.
    Copycats are not truth-seekers, nor leaders, nor independents, and there are a lot of them!

  • Jan Rutherford
    Posted at 13:51h, 08 December Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Theresa. I wrote another post specifically about humility – http://janrutherford.com/mount-princeton-–-a-lesson-in-humility/

    Happy Holidays!


  • Craig Rice
    Posted at 00:50h, 29 December Reply

    There are many thoughts that came to mind while reading this… God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason… but the one that kept coming to mind the most is “It is better to give than to receive.” Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all!

  • Jan Rutherford
    Posted at 09:08h, 29 December Reply

    Thank you for your comments, Craig. Happy New Year to you as well! -Jan

  • Lauren Raguzin
    Posted at 06:17h, 19 February Reply

    Good article personally I believe all good leaders are givers, they give of their time to mentor others to help them be leaders early in my career I had a boss who was demanding, intimidating and a perfectionist but at the same time he was fair, smart and constructive he saw something in me and gave of himself and gave me the foundation to understand how a reporter!s mind works it has helped me throughout my career to know and understand and really determine the agenda which I have applied in both my personal and professional life this mentor was a giver a tough giver but never a taker!

    • Jan Rutherford
      Posted at 07:01h, 19 February Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Lauren. I had the chance to observe a similar leader recently, and at the end of the meeting with his team, he said, “I appreciate you guys. I love you.” It was simple, sincere, and meaningful without being sappy or superficial.

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