Who Is Your Mentor? Part 2 - Mentorship Defined

Who Is Your Mentor? Part 2 – Mentorship Defined

group of business people having meeting

The concept of mentoring has become increasingly significant in the lives of people since the last decade. Individuals have increasingly cited mentoring as the most significant factor responsible for their successes. It has become very critical in the developmental frameworks of individuals. Mentoring runs the gamut of human relationships in business, politics, spiritual fatherhood, career direction and lots of others.

For such remarkable successes to be ascribed to the impact of mentoring, it is safe to say that the personality and the emotional makeups of individuals are affected as they are the fundamental premise for the strives we engage in. It behoves us all to take this serious, understand its true meaning, and embrace its values while treating it carefully so that the relationships that are birthed remain progressive. This is because there is a watered down construct that has weaved itself into the true meaning and practice of mentoring in our contemporary times.


The word Mentoring traces its roots to Greek mythology. In Homer’s mythological narrative, Odysseus was the king of Ithaca, a small city-state in Ancient Greece. He left his wife Penelope, and infant son Telemachus, to fight with the Greek alliance in the Trojan War. He entrusted guardianship of his son and his royal household to an old friend, Mentor.

One thing that is noteworthy from that historical work of literature is that the archetype embodied both male and female attributes. Mentor was a man, but Athena, the female goddess of wisdom, took his form in order to guide, teach, and protect young Telemachus. It offers stimulating insights into the meaning of mentoring as a relationship that transcends time, gender, and culture. So it does not matter if the mentor is a male or female, white or black. The cultural differences can also be a rallying point for intellectual and stimulating discourse for the common good of humanity.

From the foregoing, mentoring can be defined as an engaging relationship between two people for the sole aim of betterment. It is a symbiotic relationship where the goals of the two persons involved intersect – the learner learns and the experienced invests his knowledge. Mentoring is a very real relationship that has been an integral part of social life and the world of work for thousands of years.

Mentoring can take on an informal posture. Traditionally, mentoring has been defined as a relationship between an older, more experienced mentor and a younger, less experienced protégé for the purpose of helping and developing the protégé’s career (Kram, 1985; Levinson, 1978; Ragins, 1999; Wanberg et al., 2003). It is important to note that most people actually mentor, but they are not aware of what the activity they are involved in is called. They just do it. For example, a father who teaches his son to ride a bike is mentoring. A mother who teaches her daughter how to change her sanitary pads and inculcates into her the dynamics of the feminine world is mentoring. Apprenticeships, largely predominant in the Southern part of Nigeria, are another form of mentoring. However, my aim is to aid us move from an intuitive approach to the concept of mentoring to an intentional approach.


Mentoring is beneficial because the objective of taking the mentee by the hand and showing him or her the ropes is a very noble venture, one that if fruitfully harnessed, leads to the establishment of worthy ventures than advance humanity.

Left on our own, we try out different things, often making many mistakes before arriving at a great result. Mentoring is having our own human GPS, helping to map out our journeys towards success with minimal efforts and errors. Consequently, we arrive at our destinations faster. Mentors, having been successful in their own stints, can tell us what will work and what may not work, given similar circumstances or scenarios. Garnering experiences is costly. Books bought, seminars attended, investments made, and ventures that failed involved costs, be it time or money. For a newbie charting a new territory, hinging on the experience that a mentor provides can be truly life-saving. Most times in life, we don’t need to reinvent new wheels. Older wheels can be rejigged to for better results. That is what mentoring can do for us.


The case study of Steve Jobs is one that holds extreme fascination for me. He is globally reckoned to be the leading mind in the revolution that shook the personal computer landscape, but unknown to many, he had remarkable mentors in the different spheres of his life while he journeyed on this side of life.


Nolan Key Bushnell (founder of Atari), an American engineer and entrepreneur was Steve’s first employer. Widely revered as the father of the video game industry, he inspired Steve Jobs to start Apple. Alan Curtis Kay, an American computer scientist, known for his early pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design, was both a friend and a mentor to Steve. That alliance revolutionised his views on technology. Kobun Chino Otogowa was Steve’s zen guru. He is credited for telling Steve to start Apple rather than becoming a Zen monk. Kobun provided spiritual direction for Steve during his lifetime. During his last years when his struggle with cancer became intense, Steve reached out to Andy Grove, a science pioneer in the semiconductor industry. Steve met with Grove during his early tenure at Apple. Subsequently, he held him as a business mentor and a friend. Andy had survived prostate cancer and served as a mentor to Steve during the period.

As can be seen, he had mentors in business, spiritual, and health. His remarkable achievements as an innovator can be tied to the inputs of these men in his life. Mentoring is such a remarkable phenomenon that can advance the cause of humanity.

How can you locate and engage a mentor? How can you become a good mentee/mentor? Keep tabs next week Thursday on our blog.

About the Author

Emeka Nobis
EMEKA NOBIS is a Writer and Thought Leader. His forte is raising exceptional thought leaders. Via the SAGE Coaching system, he aids organizations and individuals to re-engineer their leadership skills, leading to success in business and life. His desire is to eat Afghan food someday squatting on a mat with an Afghanistan family. He also desires to sleep in one of the ice hotels in one the Scandinavian countries. I live in Port Harcourt, Nigeria with my pretty wife, Joy and son, Best. Emeka blogs consistently on – http://www.emekanobis.com – on Personal and Organizational Leadership, Writing and Props. Want to connect with him? Follow him on Facebook.com/emekanobis and Twitter.com: @iamemekanobis. Subscribe to his Blog and share in his thoughts.