Relational Leadership Reconsidered: The Mentor–Protégé Connection

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The elements of relational leadership include “being purposeful, inclusive, ethical, and empowering” (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2007, p. 3). Relational leadership is very process-oriented, as opposed to viewing leadership as positional. A very powerful example of relational leadership in action is through engaging in mentoring relationships. The word mentor can be traced back to Homer’s myth of Odysseus. Odysseus was the king of Ithaca who left his son, Telemachus in the care of Mentor, who guided and educated him for 10 years while his father was at war with the Trojans (Campbell, Smith, Dugan, & Komives, 2012; Swap, Leonard, Shields, & Abrahams, 2001). “Good developmental relationships (mentorships) promote socialization, learning, career advancement, psychological adjustment, and preparation for leadership,” noted Johnson (2007, p. 4). Those who have studied mentoring argue that in order to understand the nature and impact of mentoring relationships, it is necessary to examine its evolution (Kram, 1985). Mentoring has evolved from a formal expert–apprentice relationship like that of Mentor and Telemachus to include informal encounters and the expertise of peers. Juxtaposing this more inclusive mentor–protégé dynamic with the relationship leadership model ’s core elements is integral for aspiring leaders who want to build and sustain relationships in the future.


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