/ Published April 15, 2020
The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams that Win Consistently by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker. Tyndale House Publishers, 2010, 227 pp.
Supervisors are assigned, but a mentor. . . a mentor is chosen. Tony Dungy explores the beautiful burden of mentorship in his book The Mentor Leader. Dundy opens the reader to the possibility of being intentional as a mentor leader. In the same sense as a doctor or lawyer has a professional practice, leadership is also a practice. Through 203 pages, Dungy outlines a few “essential traits” of a mentor leader to keep in mind as you continue your leadership practice. Pages 204–27 offer a question and answer section based on the focus of each chapter. This how-to guide of The Mentor Leader also gives practical action steps at the end of each chapter. Instead of pushing you down a one-size fits-all path, in excellent coaching fashion Dungy asks powerful questions to empower you to surface your own way forward. This book is easy to follow and allows the reader to seamlessly jump around to chapters that are most relevant to the mentor leader. If you are tired of leadership manifestos that focus on “shoulding on you”—what you should do as a leader, how you should behave, and what areas you should focus on—this book is for you. Instead, Dundy focuses on the potential impact the influence a mentor leader can have on a mentee’s life.
Being a man of great faith, Dundy uses his beliefs as a compass for guiding others. If you are usually turned off by religious undertones, don’t be. At the end of the day, there are valuable leadership lessons to be learned here. Every chapter offers practical real-life examples of how to make a difference and help others tap into the purpose that could exist for their lives. If you have ever reflected on how to get after vision, mission, and values, these pages will paint a vivid picture of how to get beyond “what’s in it for me.” Purposeful and timeless quotes open each main section, and chapters begin with an extreme focus: Focus on Significance, It’s Not about Me, A Look Within, Characteristics that Matter, Influence and Impact, Living the Message, Maximizing Team Performance, Seven E’s of Enhancing Potential, and Building Other Lives of Impact help to channel your attention on what’s truly important. Far too often, I have seen leaders separate themselves from the people who are the heartbeat of the organization under their self-centered proclamation that “it makes it easier to make decisions,” or “it prevents them from mudding the waters.” Dungy asks you to question this fear. Each end-of-chapter Action Steps serve as lighthouses for anyone in search of a craft your own mentor leader philosophy or the leader looking for a prism to challenge their current operating paradigms. Page after page, I was forced to examine my mentor leader approach, which enabled me to shape tangle outcomes for myself and, more importantly, how to reach others.
At the end of the day, mentorship is about impact. The focus should not be shaped around the legacy you leave behind. The truth is, the people who live with your decisions will determine what a leader’s legacy will be. In the present moment, the focus should be about the moments you have shared with another person and how those imprints will impact them. My personal copy of this book is now lit up with highlights, dogeared pages, and tabs that outline key elements I have chosen to practice. There is something for every mentor leader, but you have to choose to do the work involved to change. The Mentor Leader is a great starting point.
SMSgt Demetrius Booth, USAF
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6010