Having a mentor to look to is important

Mrs. Martin was my second grade teacher. She was a woman full of smiles. The first day of class, as she read the class roll, she commented that she taught my older brother Joe a couple of years before and expected a great deal out of me.

As the year went on, Mrs. Martin had a hard time remembering my name and often I was just “Little Joe.” I was proud to be known as Joe’s brother but also felt I wasn’t very important if she couldn’t remember my name.

Like most things in life, there are good and bad aspects about having an older brother. One positive was that he had experienced most of life’s difficult situations first. I always had a template of how to deal with novel events from Joe. And he was usually very ready to give me his thoughts. When you have a big brother, you always have someone on your side should a neighborhood boy decide to try to bully you.

So, those of us with older brothers have a built in role model. I found that sword cut both ways. I often knew how to achieve success but sometimes it was difficult matching up to Joe. Joe was quite an athlete. He was captain of the football and baseball teams. He was even good at basketball, which we practiced constantly on the court in our barn. He earned the designation of honorable mention on the all-state football team and had the best batting average in baseball his senior year. Scholastically, he was a member of the National Honor Society and was invited each year to the Kiwanis banquet reserved for the top 5 percent of each class. He was also a member of the Glee Club.

Although I never made it to captain of any sports team in high school, I did well in football, lettering my junior and senior year. On the other side of the ledger, I was in the first cut of try-outs for the baseball team my freshman year. I ended up a statistician for the track and basketball teams. My grades were about the same or a little higher than Joe’s and I did make it into the National Honor Society and the Glee Club.

There was always a competition between us and I firmly believe it made me strive for and achieve things I never would have without him. His success was the fodder for my goals. I often wonder what it would have been like had our birth order been reversed.

Leaders seldom have brothers to emulate. However, I recommend young leaders seek out a more experienced person as a mentor. Having a mentor is a good way to learn the ropes more quickly while avoiding the common mistakes of the novice. When I first started my doctorate, I asked the director of my school who the best faculty member was in consulting. He responded Dr. Sue DeWine. I immediately worked my way to her side and when I had the chance asked her if I could be her graduate assistant. She was surprised at my aggressive approach but agreed. As a result, I learned a lot that I use every day.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Website, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 1-740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.

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