Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review - The Mentor Leader

It's been a month filled with thinking, reading, and discussing the topic of mentoring (and I hope to share more on that soon). This, along with the fact that I'm now a Hoosier living in the state of Indiana, when coach Tony Dungy recently came out with a book called "The Mentor Leader", I had to order that and read it immediately! The full name of the book is "The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams that Win Consistently." Tony Dungy is, among other things, the football head coach who led the Indianapolis Colts to win the Super Bowl in 2007. What impressed me more about the fact of the win was the character of man behind the team. Dungy is a very devoted Christian whose faith is lived out in all aspects of his life, on and off the field. His book "Quiet Strength" was a NY Times best-seller.

The Mentor Leader is an excellent book that is both inspiring, challenging, and practical. Coach Dungy offers a truly unique perspective as a Super Bowl winning football coach, a devoted Christian, and a man who has benefited much mentoring and who has intentionally sought for years to have a positive influence on the lives of those he touches. The book is certainly not shy of principles and thoughtful teaching on the topics of mentoring in leadership, but it really shines as a practical and wise approach that has been borne in the laboratory of life rather than taught in a business school. He has seen firsthand "that the way to bring the best out of an individual or a team is to teach-by example and through one-on-one, step-by-step mentoring." The book is packed full of stories and anecdotes, but it is not just a random assortment of anecdotes. Dungy actually covers a lot of material, and arranges it thoughtfully.

Table of contents
Chapter 1. The Mandate of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 2. The Mind-Set of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 3. The Maturity of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 4. The Marks of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 5. The Moments of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 6. The Model of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 7. The Means of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 8. The Methods of a Mentor Leader
Chapter 9. The Measure of a Mentor Leader

If you're a fan of leadership books, you'll recognize ideas and quotes by leadership experts such as Ken Blanchard, Steven Covey, John Maxwell and others. If not, that's ok too, as he weaves these in naturally along with stories and real-life illustrations. Dungy also does a great job at pointing out where ideas like mentoring and servant leadership are taught and modeled in the Bible, especially in the life of Jesus Christ.

Some of the topics or concepts that I thought were particularly interesting: focusing on strengths, the preeminence of character and integrity in the live of a leader, building a team whose strengths complement yours and each others, the importance of just hanging out and being present in the lives of those you hope to influence, the need to create a culture to effect change, and the idea of treating those you lead as volunteers (and for some of us... they are!)  Now, there's nothing ground-breaking in any of this, but Dungy does a great job of modeling all of this, and of explaining it in a down-to-earth way.

Towards the end he finishes by acknowledging that a lot has been covered, and the idea of being a mentor leader might be a daunting one, a lot to remember. So he encourages us with the following...
"Don't worry about remembering it. Think instead about beginning to live what we've talked about - each and every day, in every setting of your life. And let me encourage you to start right where you are, with the people right around you, doing something as simple as engaging with them and talking. Sometimes the smallest things we do have the biggest impact. Just start."
Being a mentor leader is being about the journey, adding value in the lives of other people in every moment. It's recommended reading, for fans of leadership and football alike. You can find The Mentor Leader at Amazon or other retailers.

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