The following is an excerpt from "The Power of a Mentor."
Twelve executives were grouped at the top of AT&T's international communication empire. Most intriguing, though, is that these very different men had a common management background.
Robert Greenleaf, an officer for AT&T, found in his research that these executives were able men, but not exceptional. Each one, however, reported having one early boss who greatly accelerated his progress as a manager. “But most surprising was the fact that four of the 12,” Greenleaf said, “had their early formative experience under one mid-level manager.” He had mentored “one-third” of AT&T's top management.
Throughout the company, from mid-level careers to upper-level executives, this one man had trained and spurred on business people in their formative years. Greenleaf says that he was “probably the most influential manager of his generation — significantly influencing the course of AT&T as a whole by his development of people.” He was a master mentor, in the Sponsor category. Mentoring can be exceedingly powerful, to shape a family, a business, a church, a nation, and even a whole world.
Let's see how mentoring impacted the world. Go back with me to Bible times. Forty miles south of Turkey in the Mediterranean is the small island of Cyprus. We're not sure just when he was saved, but a Cypriot named Joseph started a spiritual tidal wave — so impacting that it flooded the Roman world and changed history.
All Joseph did was mentor two men. One, an older teen who initially quit, but was trained into greatness. This teenager later wrote the second Gospel. The other man mentored by Joseph was a hyperthyroid, traveling custom tent-maker. A man who wrote half the New Testament, planted dozens of churches, and pioneered evangelism and disciple-making methods that still work after 1,900 years. The man from Cyprus who influenced these Influencers? Joseph's Greek name was Barnabas, which means “encourager.” This encouraging leader exercised the power of mentoring, marking the lives of Mark and the apostle Paul.
A professor who has analyzed the lives of 600 leaders in historical and contemporary Christianity was shocked as he summarized his finding. Most leaders did not finish well! Those who did had mentors and accountability. What about you?
In my travels, talking with church staff and missionaries, I've asked, “Who are the resource people living here who help you keep growing in Christ?” Some say, “We're accountable to each other on the staff.” “Oh?” But in private conversations I've often discovered that few are truly being mentored.