Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication, Department of


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Published in New Directions For Student Leadership, no. 168, Winter 2020, pp. 75–84.

doi: 10.1002/yd.20410


Copyright © 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC. Used by permission.


Effective mentoring for leadership development requires nuanced practical considerations. The authors outline aspects of effective mentorship, highlight considerations for practitioners and mentoring programs, and offer critical perspectives on mentoring.

Higher education scholars have identified mentoring as an important tool in leadership development (Campbell, Smith, Dugan, & Komives, 2012; Dugan & Komives, 2010; Hastings, Griesen, Hoover, Creswell, & Dlugosh, 2015; Komives, Longerbeam, Mainella, Osteen, & Owen, 2009).Mentoring is recognized as one of the most promising practices for both leader and leadership development because of its effectiveness at facilitating development (Day, 2001). Mentoring embeds leadership development within the ongoing experiences of a developing leader—an increasingly desired feature of leadership development interventions (Day & Liu, 2019).

Each mentoring opportunity generates unique leadership development experiences and outcomes. An effective mentoring relationship satisfies the need to develop and sustain positive relationships; linking mentoring to positive affective, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes (Allen & Eby, 2010). Mentoring develops intrapersonal and interpersonal competence in the mentee, expanding their understanding of organizations and achieving greater social capital (Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm, & McKee, 2014). Mentorship also positively influences outcomes like leadership self-efficacy, political skills, and socially responsible leadership (Chopin, Danish, Seers, & Hook, 2013; Dugan & Komives, 2010). Mentors themselves also benefit from increased pride and satisfaction, refined leadership competencies, stronger confidence, improved job performance, and higher levels of generativity (Hastings et al., 2015).

Different types of mentoring relationships yield unique leadership development outcomes. For example, while mentoring from faculty positively predicts the majority of leadership values associated with the social change model (Higher Education Research Institute, 1996), peer mentoring fills gaps by influencing leadership values such as commitment and collaboration (Dugan & Komives, 2007, 2010). Additionally, peer mentoring plays an increasingly important role as students develop their leadership identities (Komives et al., 2009). When students are mentors to peers or younger students, higher levels of generativity, and therefore social responsibility, often follow (Hastings et al., 2015; Rossi, 2001). Given the important role of mentoring in leadership development, we first outline aspects of effective mentorship, specifically highlighting considerations for practitioners and mentoring programs. Then, we discuss critical perspectives on mentoring before providing future research directions.