(Oxford) meaning of the word mentor is “An experienced and trusted adviser.” History
offers many examples of helpful mentoring relationships: Socrates and Plato,
Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. The word mentor has come to us through
Greeks. In Greek mythology, Mentor (incarnation of Athena, Goddess of War and
patroness of the arts and industry) was a loyal friend and adviser to Odysseus,
king of Ithaca. Mentor helped raise Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, while Odysseus
was away fighting the Trojan War. Mentor became Telemachus’ teacher, coach,
counselor and protector, building a relationship based on affection and trust. The
growth of Telemachus under the wise guidance of mentor, from a young and insecure
teen to a strong and well-rounded adult, emphasizes the importance of such a
guide’s (mentor) role in the life of any person.
In the western
context there are several examples of mentoring relationships. Bible, which contains
Christian or Jewish scriptures, has numerous examples of mentoring
relationships. Sometimes mentoring happened on a one-to-one basis while on
other times, it took place in a group setting. However, the group was always
small 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, mentoring
has come to be seen as a process by which a more experienced and wise
individual guards and guides others. Mentors seemingly ‘adopt’ those placed in
their care. In Indian Context, in the prehistoric times, ‘guru’ played the role
of a mentor. A ‘guru’ was a teacher who was believed to ‘know it all’ and their
wisdom could not be challenged. The guru-shishya (mentor- mentee) tradition was
essentially seen as a spiritual and mentoring relationship where knowledge and
wisdom was transmitted from a guru (mentor) to a shishya (mentee).
relationship between Krishna and Arjuna in the legendary Mahabharata may be
cited as the best example of an effective mentoring relationship. This
relationship stands as exemplary even today when one talks of mentoring. Bhagavad
Gita, a part of Hindu scripture Mahabharata, contains conversation between Lord
Krishna and Pandava prince Arjuna. Arjuna realized the importance of a good mentor and chose an unarmed
Krishna over others as his charioteer. The conversation between the two immortal
souls takes place in an enduring moment on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Realising
that the enemies are his own cousins (Kauravas), cherished friends and revered
teachers, Arjuna is filled with doubt on the battlefield.
God Incarnation, Krishna performed the role of Arjuna’s charioteer throughout
the 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 for
what is right. Like a true mentor, Krishna was throughout gently guiding and
advising Arjuna at every step. Whenever Arjuna’s thinking was incapacitated with
doubts and apprehensions, the timely intervention and wisdom sharing by Krishna
gave Arjuna the right perspective about his values and duties.
Krishna served as a perfect mentor for Arjuna
by protecting him from imminent danger and harm and at times also using his influence and powers to smoothen the path for
Arjuna. In reciprocation, Arjuna had great reverence, respect, affection and gratitude for Krishna. In
this example, the complete confidence
and trust that the mentor and the mentee reposed in each other make for
an ideal mentee-mentor relationship.
Even today in
our everyday life (professional and personal) one often finds oneself in a dilemma
similar to Arjuna, not being able to distinguish the right from wrong. One
often is caught up between ethics and what is widely acceptable norm. In such
moments, a trustworthy mentor (Like Krishna) can help one in seeing things in a
to learn a lot through their interactions with others, especially those with some
expertise, diverse backgrounds and seniority in their organizations (Hayes
& Allinson, 1998). One of the important work relationship that may serve as
a medium for personal development and learning is mentoring (Kram, 1996). In recent scenario also, one may find many
examples of many successful mentoring relationships- The Berkshire Hathaway
CEO, Warren Buffet mentored Microsoft
cofounder Bill Gates; Former Apple Inc. CEO, the late Steve Jobs served as a
mentor to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
lifetime, one might have more than one mentor. For a protégé’, their mentor
serve as a ray of light and hope. The mentee may seek the advice and help of a
mentor for a particular time and event. During this time they surrender to the
wisdom of their mentor. Once mentee’s dilemma and thoughts are responded to
wisely and they have gained clarity, they move ahead in life as someone who is more
knowledgeable and wise than before.