When I looked for mentoring books on the Amazon web site, almost 7,000 titles appeared. Undoubtedly most of these are helpful but I wonder if they all say pretty much the same thing. In contrast, Steve Saccone and his wife Cheri bring a fresh approach in their recent book Protégé: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders. Saccone is a pastor who mentors young spiritual leaders but this approach could apply far beyond the international and emerging church leaders who are participants in the Saccones’ pioneering mentoring work.
For example, the book begins with insightful discussions of “the four deadly sins of emerging leaders: envy, self-reliance, foolishness and greed.” Leaders who read these four chapters (coaches, counselors, pastors and professors included) are likely to see variations of these tendencies in themselves. They’re common dangers that can emerge at any age to undermine one’s best leadership efforts. Mentors and protégés also are likely to recognize themselves in the chapters on over-commitment, handing conflict, effective communication, and the need for missional perspectives and entrepreneurial thinking.
Like any teaching relationship, mentors and the people they mentor (the protégés) have unique learning styles and world-views. Some mentoring (and academic training approaches) provide a set formula for growth and expect everyone to go through the same exercises or scripted mentoring programs. Like the younger people with whom he works, Saccone resists this top-down leadership approach and focuses on mentoring as relationship development. “Never make mentoring only about production, tasks and performance,” he writes. Mentoring “must be relational, and people must know you care about them as a person….No one wants to be a target of someone’s agenda…. No one wants to be a project.”
Most of my adult life has involved working with next generation and other leaders but I tend to take an informal approach and talk about “journeying together” rather than about mentoring. I’ve never read a book together with someone who sees me as a mentor or coach. But I might make an exception and suggest that others read and apply the tested approaches described in this book.
What is your experience as a mentor or protégé? What have you discovered that could be of help to the rest of us? Please comment.