Paying It Forward through Mentoring

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

While we each pursue leadership opportunities and seek progression in professional skills and rank, we must also be mindful that it is our charge and responsibility, as leaders, to mentor others. It has been said that those who lead, mentor. Leaders in this role are critical as they seek out and tap into the unique gifts that each person contributes to the mission. Mentoring is significant because it not only improves individual performance and technical knowledge, but also productivity, commitment to the organization, leadership development, and retention of talented individuals.

Research on leadership indicates that most successful leaders attribute their success, in whole or part, to the mentoring they received in their career development (Zachary & Fischler, 2010). Mentors are in a unique position to share knowledge, impart lessons learned, and offer insight into opportunities. As an Airman, if you possess a piece of knowledge or subject matter expertise that is useful to others, please share it. This is how we strengthen our Air Force and enable our members to perform at even higher levels of responsibility.

Being that we are truly leaders at every level, it is important to be cognizant that we may have members who are unsure regarding (1) how to engage in a mentoring process or (2) how their respective career paths should unfold. As such, it is important that we reach out to these individuals. At the same time, I would encourage every Airman who doesn't have someone in this role, to find a mentor. Don't wait for a mentor to find you; be proactive and begin a dialogue with someone that you respect and you'll likely begin this process without even realizing it. This may be a peer, a supervisor, or someone in an unrelated specialty. Regardless, don't be afraid to ask questions or to pursue guidance, this is how each of us gain greater leadership skills and progress successfully in our respective careers. You may even seek-out several individuals as mentors (based on your varying needs). Mentors may serve as encouragers, processes experts, or even someone to get you back on track and motivated.

Why is this important to you? Well, it's important because we never stop growing and learning as leaders, and mentors can be an active part of your progression as an Air Force member. At the same time, whatever wisdom you glean from your mentors, you owe it to them to pay it forward. Reach out to others to bring them along the leadership path and enrich their knowledge base. In doing so, you will have assisted someone in unleashing his/her potential. They will be grateful for what you've done for them and, in turn, will reciprocate by also mentoring others. The synergy of such actions can be very powerful and will leave a lasting impact on the organization.

Starting today, I challenge each of you to reach out to someone that may benefit from an interaction with you. This can be as simple as contacting someone to see how they're progressing in their job or what challenges/rewards they've experienced. At the same time, if you're seeking mentorship and haven't yet found it, I encourage you to reach out to someone and ask for guidance. You will likely find an individual who is more than willing to begin a dialogue. With the significant talent residing within the Air Force, I truly believe we will continue to accomplish great things as we build the leaders of tomorrow!