Successful Leaders Do Stuff Differently | #5 Seek a Mentor

#5 Seek a Mentor… | In the Series “Seven Things that Successful Leaders Do Differently”

One of the things that consistently makes a difference in whether a leader will flourish or be a flash in the pan is whether or not they consistently seek out a good mentor or spiritual director.

Proverbs 15:22 says:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

And Proverbs 11:14 continues:

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

So how do I identify a good mentor?

Here are a few qualities to look for in a spiritual director or mentor:

  • They are trustworthy and respect confidentiality. Every leader or pastor, no matter how dialed in they may be, still voices into their life. We need someone who we can cast our anxieties upon (1 Peter 5:7)… someone who can empathize, encourage, and exhort us to keep walking…
  • They desire to freely give you a generous amount of their time and talent.
  • They have a genuine desire to increase your potential (Ephesians 4:11-12, ” And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”)
  • They will listen and seek to understand you and the way God has wired you. (Beware of wanna-be-mentors who might have some street smarts and beneficial knowledge, but they don’t really care to understand and speak into the specifics of YOUR soul.)
  • They offer you prayerful and biblical counsel. Good mentors or spiritual directors don’t default to a style of giving you input based upon trying to compare your experiences to their own experiences. This leads only to “general” advice and won’t do much to help you progress.

As you build a pattern into your life of submitting to the spiritual direction and guidance of others, you will also find that this makes you a better mentor to others.

Particularities of Outdoor Leadership that Highlights the Need for a Mentor

Outdoor leadership has some unique variables that highlight how imperative it is to have a mentor. In the book, Christian Outdoor Leadership, I highlight four types of knowledge involved in decision-making, and how the outdoor environment is a premium environment for learning how to synthesize these four layers of knowledge.

  • Knowing what to do…
  • Knowing how to do the task…
  • Knowing when to do the task…
  • Knowing why to do the task…

Research seems to indicate that the best decision-makers are those who have had experience in a particular scenario. So if you surround yourself with people who have already faced what you are experiencing, then you are more likely to make better decisions. You will also learn more from poor decisions because you have someone with whom you can thoroughly process the experience. The fact is, if you are leading people in the outdoors, you are going to regularly face scenarios that are somewhat hairy, and potentially even life-threatening. Having a mentor gives you that much more of a safety net as you spread your wings and take on more leadership responsibilities.


  • What has been one of your best experiences meeting with a mentor or spiritual director? What made that experience so great?
  • Who is one of your spiritual directors or mentors now? If you don’t have one, write down the names of a few people who have at a minimum the qualities listed above. Prayerfully consider asking one of those people to meet with you consistently this year.
  • What do you feel like you need from a spiritual director right now in your life?

Other Blog Posts in this Series: