Mentoring is often characterised as a good deed — successful individuals sparing time between meetings or en route to the golf course to give something back to society. It’s a quaint but over-simplified view.
As any person of accomplishment will tell you, hard work and a sharp intellect only take you so far. Success requires a dose of good fortune. It may come from having friends and family in high places or just being born in the ‘right’ place with the ‘right’ gender. In the US for example, someone living in Mississippi is 20% less likely to complete secondary school than someone living in neighbouring Arkansas. Globally, you are 15% less likely to own a mobile phone simply because you’re a woman.
People of equal ability and similar character live diverging lives because factors outside of their control are at play. No one is entirely self-made. We’re all a product of a society, and it’s not meritocratic one. Recognising this makes mentoring less of a charitable act performed out of sympathy, and more of a moral obligation performed out of gratitude.
So, if you’re a leader, reach out, offer to be a mentor — not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.