Newsletter #453 – Mentor Leaders

After I heard Tony Dungy speak last year I ordered his book The Mentor Leader and this week I finally read it. Dungy had a highly successful career as a football coach and currently works as a television commentator but his book shows more. Coach Dungy has written a practical, readable, example-filled book with a Christian perspective and a wealth of wisdom and leadership insights. This will be on the required reading list for my leadership classes in the foreseeable future. Here are some snippets:

  • “Simply stated, leadership is influence.” You can lead from a top-down position of authority but the most effective leaders walk alongside and build up the people they lead, see and strive to develop potential in others, and are models for those who are being led.
  • The key to consistent, long-term leadership effectiveness is a belief that the people you lead are “worthy of your time and service and that educating, equipping, and empowering them is crucial to your [and their] ultimate success.”
  • People respect a leader who doesn’t have all the answers as long as they can see that the leader is committed to personal growth.
  • Competence and authority are important in leadership, but “in times of crisis people gravitate toward the person with highest character,” including integrity, authenticity and clear vision.
  • Different styles of leadership—telling, selling, participating and delegating—are appropriate at different times, depending on who we lead and the situation.
  • “Being available and approachable is necessary for effective leadership.
  • Mentor leaders build a positive legacy of changed lives by pouring themselves into the lives of others.
  • “Most of the coaches I played for were high-energy guys who tried to control everything that happened on the court or field. They left no doubt that they were in charge….When you’re a teacher, you talk but you don’t talk during the test. When students are taking the test [or players are in the game] they are prepared so can take care of themselves” without being micromanaged.
  • I need to be intentional about being a mentor leader, taking advantage of the opportunities I have.

Based on your experience, what is your reaction? Please comment.


  1. This hit a chord with me. Where I work talks a lot about mentor leadership but can actually point to few who do it (and the few who do are women — not who God intended to be leading in the circles I am in). Thanks for reminding me that I’m not crazy! This is the kind of leader I respect and want to be.


  2. Hi Gary, I bought the book this week based on your review and have to say I am enjoying it very much. I smiled when I read in the Introduction (xvi) “We often mirror what we see…business leaders model other business leaders – or when necessary, try to do the opposite, whatever that might be.”

    I’ve only been lucky enough to have had one true mentor in my life, but instead learned the qualitites of Servant (or Mentor) Leadership from doing precisely the opposite of what most of the Sale Managers I have worked for would do. I like that Tony Dungy describes this as a legitimate way of learning. I guess I’ve actually had many mentors then if you consider them in that light! Thanks for recommending this book Gary.


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