The dictionary(Oxford) meaning of the word mentor is “An experienced and trusted adviser.” Historyoffers many examples of helpful mentoring relationships: Socrates and Plato,Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. The word mentor has come to us throughGreeks. In Greek mythology, Mentor (incarnation of Athena, Goddess of War andpatroness of the arts and industry) was a loyal friend and adviser to Odysseus,king of Ithaca.
Mentor helped raise Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, while Odysseuswas away fighting the Trojan War. Mentor became Telemachus’ teacher, coach,counselor and protector, building a relationship based on affection and trust. Thegrowth of Telemachus under the wise guidance of mentor, from a young and insecureteen to a strong and well-rounded adult, emphasizes the importance of such aguide’s (mentor) role in the life of any person. In the westerncontext there are several examples of mentoring relationships. Bible, which containsChristian or Jewish scriptures, has numerous examples of mentoringrelationships. Sometimes mentoring happened on a one-to-one basis while onother times, it took place in a group setting. However, the group was alwayssmall enough to allow personal touch and interaction.
Jesus mentored twelve,sometimes three and, on rare occasions, one protégé. Jethro mentored Moses.Moses is known to mentor mentored Joshua and the elders of Israel.Solomon was David’s protégé and the mentor of Queen of Sheeba (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Biblical-model-of-mentoring).
Drawing from history, and mythology, mentoringhas come to be seen as a process by which a more experienced and wiseindividual guards and guides others. Mentors seemingly ‘adopt’ those placed intheir care. In Indian Context, in the prehistoric times, ‘guru’ played the roleof a mentor. A ‘guru’ was a teacher who was believed to ‘know it all’ and theirwisdom could not be challenged. The guru-shishya (mentor- mentee) tradition wasessentially seen as a spiritual and mentoring relationship where knowledge andwisdom was transmitted from a guru (mentor) to a shishya (mentee). Therelationship between Krishna and Arjuna in the legendary Mahabharata may becited as the best example of an effective mentoring relationship.
Thisrelationship stands as exemplary even today when one talks of mentoring. BhagavadGita, a part of Hindu scripture Mahabharata, contains conversation between LordKrishna and Pandava prince Arjuna. Arjuna realized the importance of a good mentor and chose an unarmedKrishna over others as his charioteer. The conversation between the two immortalsouls takes place in an enduring moment on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Realisingthat the enemies are his own cousins (Kauravas), cherished friends and reveredteachers, Arjuna is filled with doubt on the battlefield. Although, theGod Incarnation, Krishna performed the role of Arjuna’s charioteer throughoutthe battle, but in the real sense his role and contribution was much more than that.Lord Krishna counseled Arjuna to fulfill his duty as a warrior and stand forwhat is right.
Like a true mentor, Krishna was throughout gently guiding andadvising Arjuna at every step. Whenever Arjuna’s thinking was incapacitated withdoubts and apprehensions, the timely intervention and wisdom sharing by Krishnagave Arjuna the right perspective about his values and duties. Krishna served as a perfect mentor for Arjunaby protecting him from imminent danger and harm and at times also using his influence and powers to smoothen the path forArjuna. In reciprocation, Arjuna had great reverence, respect, affection and gratitude for Krishna. Inthis example, the complete confidenceand trust that the mentor and the mentee reposed in each other make foran ideal mentee-mentor relationship. Even today inour everyday life (professional and personal) one often finds oneself in a dilemmasimilar to Arjuna, not being able to distinguish the right from wrong.
Oneoften is caught up between ethics and what is widely acceptable norm. In suchmoments, a trustworthy mentor (Like Krishna) can help one in seeing things in aright perspective. Individuals tendto learn a lot through their interactions with others, especially those with someexpertise, diverse backgrounds and seniority in their organizations (Hayes& Allinson, 1998). One of the important work relationship that may serve asa medium for personal development and learning is mentoring (Kram, 1996). In recent scenario also, one may find manyexamples of many successful mentoring relationships- The Berkshire HathawayCEO, Warren Buffet mentored Microsoftcofounder Bill Gates; Former Apple Inc.
CEO, the late Steve Jobs served as amentor to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. During one’slifetime, one might have more than one mentor. For a protégé’, their mentorserve as a ray of light and hope. The mentee may seek the advice and help of amentor for a particular time and event. During this time they surrender to thewisdom of their mentor.
Once mentee’s dilemma and thoughts are responded towisely and they have gained clarity, they move ahead in life as someone who is moreknowledgeable and wise than before.