Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Mentoring in Organizations: A Social Judgment Perspective for Developing Tomorrow's Leaders

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Mentoring in Organizations: A Social Judgment Perspective for Developing Tomorrow's Leaders

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Mentoring has been identified as an effective means of leadership development in organizations. This paper presents a theory of mentoring that proposes that effective mentorship fundamentally depends on the mentor's ability to help solve various complex social problems that arise in the protege's career. The social judgment capacities (e.g., wisdom, social perceptiveness, moral and social reasoning) that enable complex social problem solving in a mentoring context are discussed. A framework of relationships between social judgment capacity, mentoring functions and protege outcomes is presented along with implications of these observations for mentoring research and for development of human potential in organizations.

"There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."

--Gore Vidal

Mentoring has been identified as an effective means of leadership development (Day, 2001; Zelinski, 2000). Since ancient times, mentors have been described as socially capable and knowledgeable individuals who develop proteges by sharing their wisdom. The Greek philosopher Mentor provided wise tutelage to Telemachus while his father Odysseus was away on his adventures. The ancient Greeks considered effective mentoring to be grounded in ethics, relationships, and logic. They considered mentors to possess social judgment capabilities (i.e., knowledge and skills for solving social problems and enhancing interpersonal effectiveness) including high levels of moral reasoning, social competence and wisdom (Covey, 1997). Social judgment involves one's ability to generate solutions to complex social problems viewing solutions from various perspectives (Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, Jacobs, & Fleishman, 2000). In contemporary organizations, mentors must also display these capabilities to provide career advice to proteges in an ethical, socially appropriate and wise manner.

The importance of the relationship component of the ancient Greek conceptualization of mentoring has not been lost on scholars. Several theories have been proposed to describe how mentoring relationships produce positive organizational outcomes--including theories of mentoring functions (Kram, 1985), human development (Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson & McKee, 1978), personal networks (Ibarra, 1993), shared identity (Hunt & Michael, 1983), information processing (Mullen, 1994), power (Ragins, 1997), social support or helping (McManus & Russell, 1997) and transformational leadership (Sosik & Godshalk, 2000a). These theories focus on behavioral, perceptual, power and/or demographic patterns in mentoring relationships and the implications of these patterns for mentors and proteges. In contrast, however, mentoring can be framed instead in terms of the social judgment skills that make effective mentoring possible. For example, Ibarra (1993) suggested that social problem-solving is central to career development functions provided by mentors, such as providing visibility and protecting the protege, assisting the protege with difficult assignments, and promoting the protege as an important contributor to organizational success.

Although the social judgment perspective has not been widely applied in organizational studies of mentoring, it has contributed to the design of assessment and developmental interventions for transitional life-skills (Mech, Pryde, & Rycraft, 1995), knowledge acquisition (Gold & Roth, 1999), stress management, job interviewing, coping skills and career planning (Hulse & Sours, 1984). These skills are typically targeted for development in organizational mentoring programs (Kram, 1985). It is therefore important to understand how a mentor's social judgment capabilities relate to mentoring in organizations. Understanding how a mentor's social judgment capabilities relate to the mentoring functions can help organizations develop their intellectual and social capital (Pfeifer & Veiga, 1999), construct and directing career plans to succeed in today's complex socio-technical environment (Day, 2001), and harness the power of workplace diversity (Cox, 1993). …

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