Should you have a mentor? Probably.

When considering a mentor, it is first important to get to the foundation of what exactly we mean by “mentoring.” Mentoring is a personal relationship in which a more experienced (usually older) mentor acts as a guide, role-model, and sponsor of a less experienced (usually younger) protégé.

Mentors provide protégés with knowledge, advice, challenge, counsel, and support in their pursuit of becoming full members of a profession as well as becoming effective leaders. This is different from “coaching” which normally refers to shorter term relationships to seek and acquire often technical skills though at times coach can well become a mentor.

I firmly believe most people particularly when embarking on a new career path can benefit markedly from having a mentor. This is particularly true from young people who (as you can see from the definition provided) are embarking on a career in a “profession.” According to sociologists the “professions” include the military, law (to include lawyers as well as law enforcement), medicine, theologians, and educators. These career paths are different from other positions in society.

First, the members of a “profession” have control over an abstract body of knowledge. They are entrusted by society to develop this body of knowledge throughout their careers when they as the professions custodians. Doctors and medical researchers are expected to continue their development as medical professionals during their career while seeking better methods to treat injury and disease.

Second, members of a profession are entrusted by society with a certain degree of autonomy over who may enter the profession as well as determining who has violated the norms of the profession and must lose their “license to practice.” Doctors, military officers, and theologians swear oaths. If they are determined to be operating outside what is acceptable they lose their license, are court-martialed, or are defrocked.

Finally, those who enter a profession are motivated to provide an essential service to society that is critical for society to operate, develop, and survive. Obviously, we all believe that the external security provided by the military is critical, medical personnel treat our ailments, theologians comfort us in our moments of need, and we need a legal system that includes law enforcement if society is to function.

Consequently, I believe that those entering a profession have a heightened need for mentors to insure they fully understand its norms, standards of practice, and are encouraged to continue their professional development.


Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

Day of Infamy: Leadership Lessons from the Attack on Pearl Harbor

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

-President Franklin Roosevelt in his speech to Congress.

“I am afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

-Admiral Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese attack force

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Every American, no matter their age, conjures up a mental image of the attack on Pearl Harbor when they hear the date December 7. Today, we commemorate the 75th anniversary. This attack was a turning point in the history of our nation and the world. The war that followed lasted nearly four years, and the entire nation mobilized to meet this challenge. But ultimately it was leadership at all levels, exhibited initially on this Sunday morning in Hawaii that allowed America to be successful.

The actions of leaders on both sides of this historic battle made the difference in the events on that day — for better or for worse — and arguably set the conditions that determined the course of World War II. It is no overstatement to say that Pearl Harbor on the beautiful island of Hawaii proved to be one of the most important and intense “leadership laboratories” in the history of modern warfare.

As we reflect on the courage and sacrifice of the brave servicemen on that day, what can we discern about the actions of their leaders? And what can we learn about leadership in a complex, rapidly evolving, high-pressure environment like the one we are living and working in today? While there are innumerable leadership lessons that can be drawn from this event let me use three examples.

Leaders must act in a crisis and feel empowered to act. The battle actually began at 0342 that morning. The minesweeper USS Condor detected a periscope at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The captain of the Condor sent a message to the USS Ward, a destroyer on patrol in the harbor. Sighted submerged submarine on westerly course, speed 9 knots.

The Ward was commanded by Lieutenant William Outerbridge. He had assumed command on December 5, but still immediately ordered his ship to engage what turned out to be a Japanese mini-submarine that was attempting to enter the harbor.

All leaders will face a “crisis” at one point or another and several factors are important. First, crises demand that organizations have developed solid leadership and organizational preparation. Second, leading in a crisis takes more than just common sense. Leaders must establish a climate that allows those they lead to make decisions, fail, and grow. Third, it is critical that everyone in the organization even the newest person feels empowered to act.

Lieutenant Outerbridge’s quick actions are consistent with each of these.

Leaders must challenge assumptions particularly during changing times. The Army-Navy game in 1941 was played on November 29 in Philadelphia Municipal Stadium. Navy would defeat Army 14-6. The program for the game contained a full-page picture of a battleship and noted that it had “never been successfully attacked from the air.” The Pearl Harbor attack began at 0755 eight days later. Within 10 minutes half the battleships were badly damaged. The battleship was no longer the centerpiece of what 20th-century navies were all about.

Leaders must promote organizational resilience. The United States suffered 2,335 dead and 1,178 wounded on December 7. Over 180 aircraft were destroyed and 18 ships badly damaged or sunk. This included eight battleships, three cruisers, and four other vessels. It was perhaps the worst military defeat in American history. But all the American aircraft carriers were at sea.

America recovered quickly. Four months after the attack (18 April 1942) sixteen B25 bombers took off from the USS Hornet and conducted a bombing raid on Tokyo. On June 4, 1942 the American and Japanese fleets fought perhaps the most important battle of the war in the Pacific near Midway Island. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto sent four of his carriers to draw out the American fleet and hopefully destroy the carriers. But in the ensuing battle, the Japanese lost all four of their carriers while the US Navy lost won.

This can also be illustrated in the American industry’s reaction to Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941 the US Navy had eight aircraft carriers and 112 submarines. At the end of the war the Navy would have 140 carriers and 214 submarines.

Scientist Brian Walker and David Salt in their book, Resilience defined it as: “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure.” Bad things will happen, and effective leaders must insure their organizations can “bounce back.” Every ship that was part of the Japanese task force that attacked Pearl Harbor was sunk by September 1945.

As we reflect on the sacrifices of those Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 let us further consider what we can learn from this iconic event that will make each of us a better leader.

Perhaps the words of former Secretary of State Colin Powell are appropriate. Leadership is the art of getting your people to accomplish more than they may think is possible.


Dr. Jeff McCausland, Founder and CEO, Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC

The Critical Importance of Mentors

tutor-407361_1280I lost two people who were very, very important to me last fall. They had both been my mentors. The first was my mom who has been my personal mentor throughout my life. She guided me from birth and sacrificed enormously on my behalf. There is absolutely no doubt I would have never accomplished the things I have done without her wise counsel and assistance.

The second was a senior officer who took me “under his wing” when I was a young cadet at West Point. Don was a professional mentor I could always turn to for guidance and counsel specifically about my military career. He also provided critical advice and analysis for many of the national security issues that I became involved in while working in the Pentagon, National Security Council Staff in the White House, and other efforts that I have been involved in since retiring from the military. I always knew that he was only a phone call away despite the fact that we were not frequently assigned to the same location and might not see each other for several years. I could always call him day-or-night to seek his advice and assistance.

But what exactly is “mentoring” and why is it important? Mentoring has been described as a dynamic relationship in which a more experienced person (the mentor) acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor of a less experienced person (the mentee). It is based on several distinct elements including:

  • Reciprocity, collegiality, authenticity, and mutuality.
  • Intentional role modeling
  • A “safe harbor” for self-exploration (disclosure)
  • Transformation particularly of the mentee’s professional identity.
  • A connection that endures.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 1,250 top executives as listed in The Wall Street Journal. It discovered that 65 percent had at least one important mentor. Furthermore, the analysis suggested that executives with mentors had higher salaries, more rapid promotions, greater achievement of career objectives, and higher overall job AND life satisfaction. It has also been discovered that organizations with a culture of mentorship have lower attrition rates.

Through this relationship, mentees seek better job performance, which may include greater involvement in professional organizations. They also want help with networking, job opportunities, and finding greater satisfaction in the organization they are part of. Over time they will likely want assistance in achieving a stronger sense of professional identity, more productivity, and having a greater impact.

I would argue that having a mentor and eventually becoming a mentor is particularly important for those who are members of one of the following professions: the military, medicine, education, the clergy, or law enforcement (lawyers, judges, and police). Such occupations are focused on the continued development of the abstract knowledge associated with the profession and the critical service it provides society. Consequently, the development of the next generation in the profession is a critical requirement. I was amazed how quickly I found other younger officers seeking my advice and counsel as I progressed through my career, and I am confident that most teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, and policemen have had the same experience.

Effective mentors must first and foremost take the time to get to know the mentee. Spend the time to learn their strengths and weaknesses as well as their goals. In doing so the mentor must “affirm” the path the mentee is taking while gently shaping as well as redirecting them away from unrealistic aspirations. The mentor is both a teacher and a coach. He or she must look for “teaching moments” during their time with the mentee and if working in the same organization demystify the “system” for the mentee while providing the “lay of the land”. The mentor must be prepared to offer counsel in difficulty times but challenge the mentee in order to stimulate their growth. When appropriate, the mentor should actively sponsor the mentee and hopefully match opportunities with their “dreams”. This may also be part of pointing out milestones and successes to the mentee while helping them to objectively step back and appreciate their own progress. Finally, an effective mentor has to be humble and have patience. He or she must be open to feedback particularly as the mentee matures. Nobody wants a “perfect” mentor. Humble mentors model with their own fallibility. Important qualities for effective mentors include both patience and good emotional intelligence.

Good leaders are not only effective mentors but also seek to create a mentoring culture in their organization. This is difficult to do but essential nonetheless. Leaders must continually stress its importance and how it is closely related to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. It may also require not only traditional mentoring but also peer and team mentorship. An effective program will seek to select mentors carefully, train/support them, prepare mentees, and assess/reward mentors for their efforts. It should also be a topic during annual performance review discussions, and many organizations conduct annual surveys in order to ascertain the level of satisfaction and experience with mentoring. Finally, it should be part of all exit interviews when a member of the organization is departing.

Having mentors was critical in my personal and professional development. Being a mentor is crucial to the success of any organization and, I would argue, a professional responsibility. An expert on mentoring described it as “the seal of approval.” He further observed, “to have a mentor is to be among the blessed. Not to have a mentor is to be damned to eternal oblivion or at least to a mid-level status.”

Furthermore, we would all be wise to remember the words of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration,
Whose memory is a benediction.

Stevenson was clearly describing a mentor. I know because having mentors has been invaluable to me, and I only hope that I have also fulfilled my responsibility of being a mentor to others along the way.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

Critical Thinking and Myanmar

Last week I travelled to Myanmar as part of a US Track 2 negotiation team to discuss weapons of mass destruction with a group of senior retired Myanmarese officers. Prior to my departure I also taught a seminar to my students on critical thinking. It was a pretty eclectic week, and as I flew home it occurred to me that my trip to Yangon, Myanmar had expanded my understanding of critical thinking and its importance.

If you look for a definition of “critical thinking,” you may very likely find the following:

“Critical thinking is the ability to effectively receive information, evaluate the information, recall prior information, assimilate information by comparing differences and determining cause and effect, and evaluating the information to make decisions and solve problems”. It is closely related to the scientific method in our approach to problem solving and has been identified as a crucial aspect of any education.

One of the challenges of “critical thinking” is avoiding “groupthink.” This is a concept developed by Irving Janus in his book, Victims of Groupthink. Janus argued that “groupthink” occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment.” The symptoms of “groupthink” include:

  • Collective rationalization
  • Illusion of invulnerability
  • Belief in inherent morality
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups
  • Direct pressure on dissenters
  • Self-censorship
  • Illusion of unanimity
  • Self-appointed ‘mindguards’

When we arrived in Yangon, we delivered a series of presentations about American concerns that were focused on weapons of mass destruction, proliferation, etc. Frankly, I expected our counterparts to express a similar concern about these critical issues. A retired Myanmar general then gave a very long summary of his concerns that included: climate change, deforestation, poor health conditions, illegal mining, excessive fishing, human smuggling, illegal drugs, counterfeiting, etc. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps we had fallen victim to at least a variation of groupthink. We clearly believed in the inherent morality of our arguments and assumed that unanimity existed on what was really important.

This suggests a cultural aspect to groupthink that is important as we become a much more global society. The Josephson Institute has identified “Six Pillars of Character” that may frame how we perceive problems in our respective societies: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These provide a framework or lenses through which we consider critical issues, but our individual definitions of even these concepts may vary. Consequently, my Myanmar friends saw the world differently Not better, not worse, but differently. If I am to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink, I have to respect that, be willing to listen carefully, and consider other examples in our increasingly smaller world.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

Understanding Lincoln

Our colleague and resident Abraham Lincoln expert Matt Pinsker is conducting an incredible on-line course titled “Understanding Lincoln.” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland was asked to participate. The responses to the discussion from grateful teachers has been incredible. We’ve included some below:

– “Wow!!! Great Session!!!! Best Ever!!!!  I learned so much and I have watched it again after the live presentation. I can never thank you enough for the education I get from your amazing vision on how to make better teachers in our country. It was just a big fat WOW today!!!”

– “Thank you for reading my question – how thrilling to watch a panel of experts discuss my thoughts! I really enjoyed the round table from beginning to end!”

We think the exclamation points say it all. Jeff had a great time participating in this Presidential War Powers session and can’t wait to take part in the next one on January 25 at 10 am EST. Please take a moment and watch the video embedded below.

Strategic Foresight – Where Futuring, Scenarios and Strategic Planning Meet

“The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed”- William Gibson

Why is it that some companies, like Apple, seem to live in the future creating products that consumers don’t even know they want or need, while others, like 133 year old Kodak, fail to sense the winds of change and collapse?

This failure to grasp and move into the future results from a lack of foresight at both the organizational and individual leadership level. Leaders cannot provide for the future unless they can “see” it or at least make a good guess about what it may look like. Of course, the future cannot be predicted – there are far too many variables shaping it. However, Strategic Foresight provides a structured way to imagine the possible and probable futures that might emerge, recognizing that many futures are possible. Strategic Foresight is not only sensing these possibilities but also understanding the driving forces and relationships shaping them.

Strategic Foresight is a complex, analytical approach organizations can use to better grasp and plan for the future. It is a powerful tool, helping leaders predict and understand the incoming changes that will impact their organizations, as well as formulating the strategies through which the organization will attempt to shape the future.

Bishop and Hines identify six major guidelines associated with Strategic Foresight:

  • It begins with a process of framing – establishing clarity about the mission.
  • The next step is scanning –mining the internal and external environment of the organization, looking for data, trends, beliefs and assumptions that may affect the future.
  • Scanning is followed by forecasting –analyzing and using all of the data and trends collected during scanning to create probable alternative futures. Forecasting provides scenarios against which the leader can monitor progress, look for leading indicators and maintain awareness of unexpected events called wild cards.
  • The final three guidelines follow the more traditional processes of visioning, planning, and acting based upon the forecasts and scenarios that were developed.
  • In summary, Strategic Foresight provides a set of probable futures (scenarios) for the organization as well as several alternative paths forward.

Foresight is also an important personal attribute of leaders. Robert Bruner, the Dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, put it this way in an interview in the Wall Street Journal: “I think of leaders as having many attributes, but one of the key ones is self awareness. Good leaders are present and engaged and alert…This awareness is almost an ability to see around corners, a capacity to look ahead, think strategically and imagine consequences.” Sharpen your awareness and foresight by trying some of the practices listed below:

  • Be present. Pay attention and maintain a 360°/top to bottom, inside/out view of your environment.
  • Become aware of the senses you are using to gain that awareness. Expand your way of observing. What do you know is happening and how?
  • Cross Index – Read books and periodicals outside of your personal and professional areas of interest.  Network with people outside of your profession and with people whose interests differ from your own.

In summary, Strategic Foresight helps leaders perceive positive signals, as well as unexpected events, allowing them to quickly recognize meaningful changes, adapt to them and select alternative strategies. Using Strategic Foresight, leaders, “… can create the future into which we are living, as opposed to merely reacting to it when we get there.”
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[i] Hines, Andy & Bishop, Peter, editors, Thinking About the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight (Social Technologies, LLC: Washington D.C., 2006).
[ii] Wall Street Journal, “Professor Says Business Schools and Students Can Take Away Lessons From Financial Crisis,” August 20, 2009, p. B5.
[iii] Jaworski, Joseph, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, (Berrett-Koehler Publishers: San Francisco, 1998) p. 182.

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James Davis is President of the Davis Group Ltd. which specializes in leadership development and executive coaching.  His book, Sacred Leadership: Leading for the Greatest Good will be published in May. The Davis Group Ltd. is a close partner and collaborator of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC.
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This article is from our February 6, 2012 newsletter. Click here to view all our newsletter articles and features.