Topic: Mentoring

Author(s), Title and Publication

Gibson, J. W., Tesone, D. V., & Buchalski, R. M. (2000). The Leader as Mentor. Journal of Leadership Studies, 7(3), 56-67.


This study explored the mentoring role of leaders. Mentoring refers to an interpersonal relationship in which a senior or more experienced person helps a junior or inexperienced person. The researchers argued that mentoring is a natural component of effective leadership.

Based on social exchange theory and communitarianism theory, the study explained the pro-social behavioral roots of mentoring. Leaders or mentors help new employees because the relationship will benefit them and their entire group (social exchange theory), and because it is the right thing to do to help the group (communitarianism theory). Thus, pro-social attitude was confirmed in a survey  at the University of Hawaii’s Travel Industry Management School; 55% of 40 undergraduate seniors who were willing to be a mentor said they wanted to help others and to contribute to the organization.

Mentoring program can be formal or informal. Formal mentoring involves an organized plan, in which a company identifies a mentor, matches the mentor with an inexperienced worker, and provides guidelines for the mentor. Informal mentoring requires no planned connection of workers, but may include teams/committees to institute relationships between new employees and experienced workers. The current trend is to use formal mentor programs in employee learning and development.

The research found that mentoring can improve staff performance and retention, and increase loyalty and organizational commitment. The effects of mentoring might be reduced due to poor planning and implementation, a lack of organization and clarity in communicating the goals, or close personal relationships between mentors and their mentees.

Employee opinions about mentoring are reported as uniformly positive. The researchers interviewed ten middle level and executive managers at an independent resort in Hawaii. The results identified five themes of effective mentoring practice: 1) former mentees make excellent mentors, 2) informal mentoring is more effective than formal mentoring, 3) the hospitality industry is a natural environment for mentor behavior, 4) the mentoring program should be provided at various levels of employees’ career, s and 5) management can be learned by trial and error, modeling, and mentoring.

Implications for Practice

Leaders might improve their mentoring skills by considering leadership not as a top/down relationship, but one from the inside out to create self-expression that adds value to the organization. Organizations might help by facilitating the mentorship process, and recognizing and rewarding leaders who make active mentoring a part of their everyday work.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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