Five things mentors teach about leadership

Traditional leaders tend to focus our attention on developing only the 'best' people or those with the highest level of potential. This assumes we know how to find talent based on textbook selection criteria and processes. But are we overlooking our future leaders because we are not looking in the right places?

Leaders can come from anywhere. I believe we need to broaden our thinking by looking in less obvious places. By spending more time mentoring or coaching those who need it most, we just may uncover a diamond in the rough.

" By spending more time mentoring or coaching those who need it most, we just may uncover a diamond in the rough."
Michelle Rayner, Executive director, strategy, international & institutional bank, ANZ

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Irrespective of where people have come from or their level of aspiration, it is essential we share our wisdom and help people be the best they can be.

Reflecting on my two decades in financial services spanning four countries and five organisations, I can say I am where I am because of support from a handful of key mentors.

These people have come from diverse backgrounds and have guided me at many different stages of my personal and professional development.

When I reflect on the advice mentors have given me over the years, there are five key lessons I believe are relevant regardless of experience, potential or environment.


So much time is spent focussing on improving our weaknesses or 'areas of development'. I think it is more important to develop our strengths.

What are you really good at, what do you do really well? Once you can articulate this, passion and purpose will follow.


In the workplace, there is nothing more tiring than pretending to be someone you're not. I recently came across a TED talk by Susan Cain from Bill Gates' Top 13 Playlist.

Cain speaks about the power of introverts who bring extraordinary talents to the world. Yet society (the workplace in particular) dictates you should be an extrovert if you want to be successful.

Leaders need to respect diversity and create a culture that encourages bringing out the best in our employees and we need to listen to the quiet voices more. Mentors should help people understand who they are and that they don't need to be someone different.


The ever-changing workplace requires us to make many decisions every day. However, our values as a person should be the one constant that does not change.

As a mentor, I encourage people to understand their values so that no matter what change might be happening around them or to them, there is a sense of uncompromising stability in what you stand for. Values create a sense of purpose and help us to be resilient in the most challenging of times.


I volunteer as a career coach at Wear for Success, an organisation that helps the long-term unemployed or disadvantaged return to work.

As a mentor, I try to help people uncover their sweet spot. When you do things you love, you will excel in your role and find lasting satisfaction in what you do.

You talk with passion, your face lights up – it changes your mindset. You are no longer looking for a job – you are following your vocation – and a prospective employer will see this.


When you mentor, it is important to teach your mentees to mentor so that we can create a virtuous cycle. There is no sense keeping wisdom to ourselves. We should wish the next generation can do more and go further than we did so we must nurture our future talent, whoever they are.

As mentors, we all have something to offer. Embrace mentorship, expand your mindset and don't forget to look in places you least expect to find a hidden gem.


Michelle Rayner is executive director, strategy, international & institutional bank at ANZ. You can follow her on Twitter here and LinkedIn here.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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