Mentoring is the key to great leadership

A mentoring partnership
Lis Merrick By Lis Merrick, UK President of the EMCC

18 September 2015

We asked Lis Merrick, UK President of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), to comment on the relationship between mentoring and leadership. Here's what she had to say. 

This issue is intriguing to me. I've designed over 90 different mentoring programmes across global business sectors and industries. I find myself asking: "Are there any mentoring skills which do not enhance the skills of a leader?"

Core mentoring skills

To me, a truly great mentor has a number of core skills and attributes. Of course, there are some really obvious ones, like great active listening skills and the ability to ask challenging questions. 

A good mentor also needs to be comfortable being challenged themselves and must be able to give and receive valuable feedback. I would also expect an effective mentor to demonstrate:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Self-awareness 
  • Empathy
  • Motivation
  • Mindfulness
  • Social competence

These are also the attributes of a robust role model, something which mentors working in career and talent programmes absolutely need to be. 

Are there any mentoring skills which do not enhance the skills of a leader? 

Subtle skills

Alongside these core mentoring skills, some more subtle, but equally important skills exist. These help to make someone a superb mentor, but to me, they also make for a truly great leader as well. 

Some of the less explicit attributes of a mentor include:

  • A real love of learning 
  • A passion for developing others 
  • Becoming a more effective coach with their own team 
  • Developing a more strategic 'big picture' perspective as a result of increased reflection and self-awareness

A well-developed mentor is also someone who can select from a toolbox of techniques not just to use in mentoring, but also on a day-to-day basis as a leader and with their own teams. Things like mentoring process models, ideas from positive psychology and other creative techniques are all so valuable for mentors to adopt as part and parcel of their day jobs. 

What's more, a leader with these skills at their disposal can really boost and support the problem solving and decision making abilities of their own team and peers.

Mentoring improves leadership

Early in my mentoring consultancy career I was involved in developing a programme for women at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). One of the biggest outcomes from this programme, and something that has always stayed with me was just how much the mentors themselves took from the experience. 

They realised that being a mentor made them better leaders. 

This is a real testimony to the power of mentoring, but it also made me aware early in my mentoring career how undersold the real benefits of mentoring can be.

About the author

Lis Merrick is UK President of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). She can be contacted at:

Become a mentor

Develop your leadership skills and help grow the next generation of CAs by signing up for the ICAS Career Mentoring Programme.

Read the full version of this article in the October 2015 edition of The CA magazine.


  • Career mentoring

Previous Page