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Mentoring Vs Leadership Coaching

A leadership coach helping an employee

Discussions around mentorship and leadership coaching often see these two terms being used interchangeably. However, while these two ways forward towards formidable models of leadership certainly have some overlap, there are also important distinctions that organizations can put to work.  

Understanding how mentoring and leadership development overlap and differ can help empower your next professional development initiative. At Learn2, we are happy to provide that foundation of knowledge to steer you in the right direction toward whichever professional development programming best suits the personalities and goals within your organization. 

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring involves a content matter expert or person of achievement within a particular industry or position. Typically, the mentorship relationship occurs between two people, but mentors can also work within group settings to extend their wisdom on a larger scale. Mentoring can be highly productive as it helps mentees more clearly envision their next steps and how to get there.

What is Leadership Coaching?

Leadership coaching is about developing a professional’s knowledge and skill sets in ways that achieve specific goals. A leadership coach uses data and processes to lead the person or people they are coaching towards desired outcomes that can be reflected through measurement. 

How Do Mentoring & Leadership Coaching Differ?

One of the biggest differences between leadership coaching and mentoring is that coaching tends to be more formal and its purpose leans towards specific professional milestones and outcomes. A leadership coach will likely be someone who is trained in delivering meaningful personal and professional development. They will set goals with you, create programs and plans to achieve them and implement measurement that reflects the success of your time together. 

On the other hand, a mentor can be someone who has led a career path you are interested in; they can be a family friend; a colleague or simply someone who inspires you. Mentorship may be more likely to ebb and flow with where you are at in life. It may not necessarily take shape around specific measurables, but more so provide a softer form of guidance and wisdom that you can pull from when needed.

The Key Differences Between a Leadership Coach and a Mentor

A leadership coach can help you address particular behaviors, cultivate strengths that translate into improved work performance and help you earn credentials and skills that empower your leadership journey. Whereas mentoring is fantastic for learning more about jobs you may be curious about, academic programs you want to explore or ways of being you may or may not want to incorporate into your life. Mentorship is meaningful to both parties who are engaged in it, whereas leadership coaching is more focused on the person being coached and where they desire to get to. 

Professional Development Through Leadership Coaching and Mentorship

One of the many great things about mentorship and coaching is that they are not mutually exclusive. Rather, engaging in both forms of development can help nurture your individual gifts across a broader spectrum and empower you to simultaneously develop tangible skills and transferrable knowledge.

Build an Effective Leadership Program With Learn2

If you want to learn more about establishing an effective mentorship program or want to chat about leadership coaching and the ways it can improve productivity and workplace culture, reach out to our team at Learn2. We will be able to speak at length about the benefits of each of these initiatives and the objectives that best align with them.

About Author

Doug Bolger is the world’s foremost instructional designer for participant-driven designs. He is changing how the world works, by changing how the world learns.

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