Mentoring: The Leader as Mentor

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference
Gibson, J. W., Tesone, D. V., & Buchalski, R. M. (2000). The leader as mentor. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 7(3), 56-67.

Summary/Interesting Notes
Leaders nowadays are “coaches, facilitators, and team leaders.” One of the most potent ways to influence someone is to mentor them. The variety of ways of mentoring are usually related to the goals of the organization. Informal mentoring could include teams (think Jazz) and luncheons (think Roxanne’s end of year celebration).

Why people become mentors can be explained by the social exchange theory (think of a relational calculator of costs & benefits) and the communitarianism theory (people help others without direct personal benefit to build up the community).

Wheatley (1999) suggests that leaders are evaluated by the number of new leaders they develop.

Dancing in the Jazz Workshop
Dancing in the Jazz Workshop

A master is defined as someone who started before the learner (Zukav, 1979, 1990) In the ancient tradition the job of the master is not to teach, but to dance with the learner. In this sense the master is following the learner’s path of inquiry by presenting only the information that is asked for by the learner. The master begins this dance with the essence of the knowledge, the core of what there is to know and builds outward from that core in directions driven by the learner (p. 61).

Enforcing mentoring or formal mentorship programs tend to have more challenges than informal mentoring.

The paper included a focus study group with 10 managers from hotels and independent properties. They found effective practices for mentors:

  • It’s best to learn to be a mentor by being mentored
  • Informal mentoring is more effective than formal programs
  • Informal mentoring is for all levels, not just new employees
  • There are only three ways to learn management: trial and error, modeling and mentoring; mentoring is the most efficient way to learn

“Mentoring is the leader being the master of learning – and learning is the leader sharing the essence of a lifetime of experience.”

Application to VC
Yesterday we thought about the VC coordinator mentoring teachers. Today, think about the district level or educational service agency level person mentoring the VC coordinators (in light of a complete support structure).


  • What are the cost/benefits to providing mentoring to your VC coordinators?
  • I see the costs as mostly time, but the benefits are the schools using VC more, and the VC coordinators becoming more independent.

Building the Community

  • How are you building up the community of VC coordinators in your area?
  • I like Roxanne’s model with user groups where the coordinators get to know each other and share tips with each other. They learn from each other, not just from Roxanne. Read more here, here, here, here, and here.

Doing the Hokey Pokey in Jazz

Dancing with the Learners

  • How are you dancing with your VC coordinators?
  • “The master is following the learner’s path of inquiry by presenting only the information that is asked for by the learner.”
  • How are you providing just-in-time learning?
  • For me, this means starting each year with a VC coordinator training (which I hope to take national this fall. Interested?). Then, I offer other trainings, usually again in the fall. Short bits of: Scheduling, Troubleshooting, Using Your Document Camera. Usually 2nd or 3rd year coordinators attend these trainings. Then of course there is all the phone calls and quick VC advice sessions throughout the year as needed.

What about non-functioning VC Coordinators?
As I think through this process, I’m starting to think more about my coordinators who don’t take advantage of these services. Whose schools aren’t using VC very much. I don’t usually think about them because the others keep me so busy. But as I reflect over the summer, I wonder how I can pull them into the learning community?

Your Turn
What do you think? Do you support VC coordinators? How are you “dancing” with them?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.