Why the best leaders are also mentors

Learn why the best leaders are also mentors and the personal benefits of being a mentor.

Table of Contents

It could be argued that we are having a bit of a crisis in the world when it comes to leaders. Opinions are always divided over what makes a good leader and it does obviously depend on the situation in many cases, but in business, there are certain traits that make someone a successful leader. Many people will cite that it is all about a show of strength, which may be true to a certain degree, but there are definitely other factors at play.

Types of leadership

There are 3 main types of leadership styles, as defined by Kurt Lewin.


This is really the opposite of an Autocratic leader. A Laissez-faire leader gives little direction to their team, allowing for a high level of autonomy and decision making. It can be considered more of facilitation than leadership. This can be very successful when leading a team of intelligent, innovative, highly skilled people, but less so where the group lack skills or a quick decision needs to be made.


In contrast, there is the democratic leader. This style of leadership is characterised by shared decision making and seeking input from a team. Democratic leaders tend to be fair, honest and creative in approach. By including others in decision making, workers feel empowered and like their contribution makes a difference and as a result, work harder out of choice and respect for their leader, not out of fear or obligation.

Studies on qualities of the best leaders

It probably won’t surprise you to know that some of the best qualities in a leader are not that of the dominating authoritarian. Effective leaders have more interpersonal qualities and at the root of it all, they understand people and have a genuine enthusiasm for developing others.

Research shows that it is leaders who empower others and mentor and develop them, that are the best in positions of power. These types of leaders retain their workforce, gain trust and develop as a result of developing others.  Even back when Lewin’s study took place, this would be likened to a Democratic Leader, with a little Laisez-faire thrown in for good measure to allow for some autonomy. These leaders who develop and empower their workforce are mentors.

Traits of the best leaders and mentors

A great mentor will most likely have the following traits:


This one is huge because this is what mentoring is all about. Great leaders are not scared to replace themselves. They see the bigger picture and understand that by developing their workforce, it will develop and grow the company. Empowering others means that in response, they will take ownership, invest in their work and develop a higher level of autonomy. Empowering others is the single best thing you can do for your business.

Excellent communication

If a leader can’t communicate, how can they empower? A skilled leader will be able to communicate with people on their level, motivate them and discipline them in a way that commands respect but also earns respect. Listening is also extremely important, and these skills are vital for any mentor.


Mentors understand that loyalty works two ways. In order to gain loyalty from employees, they have to give it. This means showing people that they have their back in a crisis and that they will help them develop through the right training and support.


This may sound obvious, but it is very important. Great leaders are friendly, approachable and easy to relate to. They don’t have a sense of grandeur and they treat others with respect. These traits are essential in ensuring that a workforce does their job to a good standard and are happy to do so.

Personal benefits of being a mentor

We can see that a leader who is also a mentor has huge benefits for the team and organisation but what about benefits to the leader themselves? How does being a mentor benefit you personally as opposed to being a more authoritarian leader?

Increased success

With a team behind them who are willing to work hard, who are loyal and take pride in their work, the whole business of leading becomes much easier.

It’s nice to be liked

Being the kind of leader that everyone hates isn’t exactly a nice feeling. A dominating leader may get a buzz out of being in control but all in all, it feels better when people like you, you can trust them, and you feel part of something. Being the type of leader who is also a mentor ensures that this is the case.

Personal satisfaction

By nature, we humans like to help. We feel good when we do something nice for others. Being in a position where we add value is what we seek and there is no better feeling than helping someone else achieve something. Empowering others does wonders for our confidence and sense of worth, as well as theirs.

6 human needs

Life Coach Tony Robbins believes that everything we do boils down to 6 human needs we are all trying to fulfil. Most of us look to satisfy four- significance, love and connection, certainty, and variety. Everything we do has the aim of meeting these needs and the way we do it has an impact on our happiness, the happiness of others and how successful we are in life. We all tend to be driven by a certain need in particular and that will be different for each of us.

Now, there are many ways to meet these needs. Let’s take significance as an example. A person who is driven by this need may be the one in a meeting who has all the answers. By feeling knowledgeable about a subject and gaining recognition for contributing effectively, they will feel more significant and this can have a positive effect on their self-esteem.

Another way to gain significance is to put another person down. The type of manager who exerts their authority by keeping others down, chastising instead of praising and micromanaging in a way that stops people developing and stepping up, probably has the same need for significance but is exerting it in a very different way, at the detriment of others.

Contribution and growth

You may be wondering where the other two needs come in. These are contribution and growth and are ideally the needs you want to ensure you are driven by. Contributing to others and growing and developing ourselves, are the most satisfying needs to meet for both us and other people. Not everyone is driven by these needs, but effective leaders who thrive on coaching and developing others are likely to be looking to fulfil these needs through their work.

In contributing to the development of others, we also grow in many ways ourselves and this is why mentors get so much out of what they give, and as a result, are the best type of leaders for everyone involved.


All in all, the most effective leaders are mentors too, and that is the simple reason that they are followed: they are relatable and know how to work with people. They gain their following through a mutually beneficial format of helping others and in turn, people respect them, appreciate them and want to give something back. This also leads to personal growth opportunities for the mentor who thrives on contributing to the growth of others.

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