Critical role of a mentor


With Lorraine Lusinje:

The journey of life is complex and formal education alone cannot effectively groom a person for the roles they need to play in life. Mentorship from a tender stage is important in developing an individual and equipping them with the right skills and expertise to advance their lives and careers. From tender years to the first few years of life after tertiary education or working life are prime years in grooming an individual.

Learning is a lifelong process. Even in a lifetime, no one will ever be able to learn everything to be learnt in this world. Interestingly enough, most people go through just a few years of education at professional level and come out with a certificate, a diploma or a degree as foundations for their careers that are apparently supposed to equip them with lifelong skills. A career has a huge bearing on one’s life; we spend a lot of time at work and what we do as work also embodies what we are and who we are in general.


It is crucial that mentorship starts at a tender stage because these are the stages where people are still in the process of forming principles, ideas, habits and thought patterns. Mentorship from a younger stage makes a bigger difference because it can ably influence this process. Many a time, we have seen and heard of people who get opportunities to advance their skills and careers at a very later stage in life; they come back and their newly acquired skills end up shadowed by the traits and habits that have been instilled in them for so long. For instance, they get a PhD but drink like savages, consequently derailing their performance.

This follows that mentorship works well when it is an all-round factor. Keeping in mind the complexity that comes with being an individual, it is important for mentorship to involve the core aspects of one’s life. We have seen great leaders that have come crumbling to the ground because they could not keep a disciplined leash on their private or social lives. For most, the assumption is the two are not related, but for many, this stems from a deep place that has not been nurtured and developed to seek the best possible ways to handle oneself.

The best mentors are the ones who have had the experience both good and bad; yes mentors are human too and have probably made a few mistakes in life but chosen to learn and rise from them. Most people seek mentorship from peers; this process can either be consequential or deliberate but it happens a lot. Of course, we are different as individuals and everyone has something to teach someone, but sometimes the danger with peer mentorship is that it can be misleading since the people involved are at the same level of growth and still experimenting with a lot of things. At the end of the day, peer mentorship usually leads to group-think; a situation where people follow certain paths just because their friends are doing the same and it feels safe and not necessarily because they are developing as in individual.


It is clear that mentorship plays an important role in an individual’s life. And it is rather obvious that there is a lot to gain from a good mentor. The kind of mentors one has can make or break them. And a mentor has the power to influence an individual in ways they may never have imagined – it is one of the strongest relationships a person can have in life. In this respect, mentorship should never be exploitative whether from the mentor or the mentee.

We live in a world where everyone is thinking of a quick catch and focusing on “what’s in it for me” and this affects the mentorship process as well. This is why we see young men getting into shady deals because of connections with some big business people. This is why we see young men biting the very same hand that is feeding them because of greed; this is why we hear of superiors demanding sexual favors from young ladies: this is why we find jobs being offered to unqualified people because someone somewhere is pulling manipulative strings.

But, mentorship is a noble cause that rewards individually and that is a tool in developing the country and the whole population at large. This relationship should be based on trust, integrity, foresight and mutual respect. There is a lot of potential in this country that is yearning for the critical roles mentors play so that, at the end of the day, we can all think big and progress together.

I rest my case.

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