I just read a fascinating interview with Michael Lindsey regarding his book, View from the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World. The interview focuses on developing leaders. Not surprisingly, it involved mentoring.

there are certain things that happen uniquely in Christian institutions of education that make a profound difference in your likelihood to succeed. Principally, it’s about having a formative relationship with a mentor.

We recently came to the same conclusion as we looked into leadership development at Cornerstone. Where we struggled, however, was in figuring out a way to implement mentoring in a formal way. His study concludes the difficulty of this.

What we found is that a lot of schools and businesses try to create structured mentoring programs…say, a management training program where you take twenty new people and you match them up with a senior executive; or in my church youth group, we had basically a system where adult volunteers agreed to mentor a Bible study fellowship format with young people who wanted that.

Those are all well and good, but actually those don’t work very effectively. The real way in which mentoring works effectively is through organic relationships. One of the most important things that Christian institutions can do is create the ecosystem of opportunity out of which those relationships can develop.

Lindsey is a sociologist and current president of Gordon College. He speaks from this perspective. He explains,

We’re in this work, not because we’re trying to pass down a certain body of knowledge, but we’re really invested in this young person. I care deeply about this particular student. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to try and help them, if it means helping them get a job, if it means helping them navigate a family issue, if it means helping them learn a subject.

So a lot of your major demographic characteristics do not matter on your likelihood to succeed. What does matter is the formative influence of an adult who speaks into your life and who has a sustaining relationship with you that you carry with you.

As far as institutions go, as president of a University, he has some thoughts which are transferrable to the church in many ways.

What I don’t think works are the structured mentoring programs where, as president of Gordon College, I go in and say “Look, we need to have a mentoring program, so we’re going to get 200 of our best students and we’re going to match them up.” That almost never works.

You tick all the boxes and say you have a mentoring program, but actually the relationship investment you’re trying to do, that doesn’t work. What institutions can do, however, is introduce people and then stimulate experiences where relationships will flourish. So…wilderness experiences, taking people on trips—these are the things that you do where people bond. You’re looking for opportunities where those bonding experiences can occur. One of the things that I have to think about a lot, as a college president, is that we spend a decent amount of our institutional resources thinking about the formal curriculum of Gordon College, when in fact the hidden curriculum has a much deeper influence. Every institution of learning has a hidden curriculum. I think Christian institutions are more mindful of that and more strategic about deploying it, but everybody has a hidden curriculum. What we have to do is create the environment where those relationships can last for a long time.

You can read the full article here: http://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/4203/the-hidden-curriculum-of-leadership/

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