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Book:  The Mentor Leader

Author:  Tony Dungy

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Dungy, T. & Whitaker, N. (2010). The mentor leader. Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. So much of what has been written about leadership focuses on positional leadership. But you don't have to look very far to see examples of people at the top of the organizational charts who have very few leadership skills. Think about it: It's much easier to look like a leader when your followers know they can be fired for noncompliance or disobedience. But that type of governance is not what I mean when I talk about mentor leadership. Mentor leaders understand that if we lose sight of people, we lose sight of the very purpose of leadership. (pg. 6)

  2. In times of crisis, people gravitate toward the person of highest character, not necessarily the person who is "in charge" or even the person they believe to be the most competent. Rather, people will tend to build a relationship with and follow the person they view as the most trustworthy, who cares the most, and who is willing to always do the right thing. (pg. 71)

  3. Too many leaders think - mistakenly - that they must stay aloof and above the fray. They believe they should maintain a respectable distance from the people they lead so they can remain "objective" and not become entangled in the issues and concerns of their followers. I believe that's an unfortunate viewpoint that is destined to reduce the leader's potential impact and undermine the effectiveness of the team. I believe it's critical for mentor leaders to engage with those they lead. It's impossible to mentor from a distance. Without engagement, you cannot lead effectively. If you do not engage with those you serve, you will never understand them or know enough about them to be able to have a positive effect in their lives. Good leadership means getting involved. (pg. 166)


Other Key Ideas:​​​​

It may take time before the results of our leadership are fully known. Our talents and our treasures may pay dividends so far down the road that we may never see the outcome. But with the faith that comes from doing the right thing at the right time in the right way, the mentor leader knows that the payoff will be great - and possibly eternal. (pg. 16)

Your job cannot be your life. It cannot be what defines you. It simply has to be one of the important priorities in your life. Burnout is a common term these days. It is certainly a very real problem, as we never seem to be able to escape the daily demands. Email, cell phones, text messages - all these technological advances are terrific, but they also can leave us without any downtime, or without any time for other who are important to us. Our employers need for us to engage in our other priorities because these are the things that recharge and strengthen us. (pg. 58)

As important as I believe a shared vision is for leadership in an organization, character is even more fundamental and essential. If people aren't comfortable with their leaders - who they are and what they stand for - they won't stick around long enough to hear about the vision. Vision matters, but character matters more. (pg. 68)

Sometimes my assistants would tell me that their friends asked whether they really worked as few hours as rumored or if that was just an urban legend. It's not that we didn't work plenty of hours, they were able to assure their friends; we just tried to be smart about it and not spend time at the office just for the sake of spending time at the office so that someone would think we were doing a good job. We all know the amount of time spent is not necessarily an indicator of success. (pg. 116)

On all the essential and core issues - our mission, vision, and values - I required unity. No compromise could be tolerated there. For example, I wasn't going to tolerate certain behaviors of guys who felt they didn't have to be accountable to me or their teammates. However, in areas where I could be more flexible - the nonessential issues, such as music in the weight room, movies on the team's plan, attire - I learned to give the players room for diversity. (pg. 150)

How we respond to advice, correction, and corrective criticism makes all the difference. Of course, there are also times for courage and standing your ground. I'm not suggesting that you capitulate every time someone offers you a contrary view. If however, someone offers constructive input, you would be arrogant not to at least consider it. (pg. 157)

One of the best ways to get people to work together is to prepare as if you will be leading a team of volunteers. Viewing the members of your organization as volunteers - and really, they aren't far from it, given how transient the workforce is these days - forces you to see them in a different light. You'll begin to lead in ways that demonstrate respect and appreciation. By focusing on persuasion instead of position or authority, you will move beyond fear of "the power of the paycheck" as motivators and begin to capture the hearts of the people you lead. (pg. 158)

The ultimate goal of every mentor leader is to build other leaders. The regenerative idea that leaders produce leaders, who in turn produce leaders - is a powerful concept for mentor leaders and their organizations. Many leaders struggle with this essential concept. It seems paradoxical to build up someone who might end up taking your place. But raising up leaders is truly the selfless goal of every mentor leader. To elevate your followers means to help them reach their God-given potential, even if it means preparing them to replace you. (pg. 188)

I always wanted assistant coaches to come to our staff and grow. If they excelled, I thought it helped us as a team. It allowed me to delegate responsibility and be more efficient as a leader. I never worried that our owner or our players would think any less of me because we had strong assistants. I have enjoyed training other coaches and seeing them go off and embark on successful careers. (pg. 227)

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