The Art of being a Good Mentor

The term Mentor has entered our lexicon fairly recently, but mentors have always existed in the Indian scheme of things. Right since the times of Vishnupuran, Ramayana or Mahabharata; there have been Mentors or Gurus as they were then called. These Gurus usually advised and guided the Kings in all matters spiritual and kingship so that the people of the kingdom were happy and this brought about peace and prosperity. During the time of Chandragupta, we had Chanakya who was a mentor-administrator to the king, guiding him during his rule. Even today one talks of his Chanakyaniti. The royal children went to the Gurukuls to learn the art of war fare, administration and education in terms of values, spiritual texts and other such knowledge that only a Guru could give. The Guru had the power to accept or reject a candidate and it was a matter of pride to say that you were the Shishya of such and such guru. Ex. Dronacharya, Vishvamitra and so on.

Even today when a child enters the school, the idea is to get an education that draws out the best in the pupil and results in a refined and polished pupil leaving the school at the completion of his/her education. So in that sense the Teacher is the first mentor, hand holding the young toddler through the academic journey starting at the pre-school level.

Gradually, with changing times and needs, the qualities and expertise that is looked out for changes and the kind of teacher or mentor also changes. So much for young students. At the Post graduate and doctoral levels, guides or mentors are chosen depending on the topic for research and the interests of the pupil. So in a sense we are hunting for mentors almost throughout our lives.

At the professional level, as one grows in ones chosen vocation, the need is slightly different. People with talent, aspirations and ambition look out for leaders in the chosen field for mentors who can help them weave their way through the “professional jungle” and guide them on their professional journey; smoothening the process and perhaps hand holding them through the tough times.

Never before has the need for mentors been as acute as it is now-jobs are few and challenges plenty; but openings for talented people appear miraculously when a mentor is involved.

This mentor-mentee relationship is one that has evolved with the years and good mentors are as rare to find as good mentees too. But all said and done, Mentorship is a special relationship between two people with a similar vision and mutual respect for each other-each of them drawing out the best in the other.

Image source-freepik

Ranjini Krishnaswamy

Dr. Ranjini Krishnaswamy

Director - Dosti Foundation School & Educational Consultant