The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy, is the coach's third book he has written, but only the first of which I have read. From the onset, it is clear that this book covers a topic which unfortunately doesn't get implemented by individuals in leadership positions to the extent which it should. Coach Dungy masterfully explains how an individual in a leadership role influences others, and by virtue of that fact, essentially leaves a legacy to those underneath them so that they can become peers. That is in contrast to a more secular interpretation of a leader being one who is in control of others. Coach Dungy provides examples of how to allow individuals to become good influences on others, for the purpose of making them better, no matter what they do. The impact that a leader can have on an individual is tremendous. It is refreshing and worthwhile to see Coach Dungy's approach as a leader in an avenue which is too often full of leaders who are out for their own goals and achievements. The mentor leader seeks to better others and build them up to make them leaders as well. A definite worthwhile read for someone who is seeking to gain insight from someone who is truly a gentleman and a great positive influence. "It's not about me" sums up Coach Dungy's mentor attitude, but also servant attitude as well.
In his introduction, Dungy outlines the "essential traits of a mentor" (p. xvii-xviii):
â€¢ Mentoring "can be taught and learned; but in order to be absorbed, it must be practiced"
â€¢ Mentoring "focuses on developing the strengths of individuals"
â€¢ Mentoring "works best" when there is "genuine concern" shown
â€¢ Mentoring is about "shaping, nurturing, empowering, and growing"
â€¢ Mentoring is "about relationships, integrity, and perpetual learning"
â€¢ Mentoring is "about changing lives" (p. xvii-xviii)
Although all 9 chapters of Dungy's book relates to the "mentor leader," there were 3 chapters that seemed to prepare the heart of the mentor: Chapter 3, "A Look Within," Chapter 4, "Characteristics That Matter," and Chapter 6, "Living the Message" (p. 45, 67, 123). In chapter 3 Dungy explains, "In order to become an effective mentor, in whatever setting, it is important to take a look inside yourself" (p. 45). He suggests that potential mentors take a "personal inventory" to assess what makes them "think, react, and respond the way they do" and what makes them "do the things they do" (p. 46). An honest self assessment will reveal personal strengths and weaknesses, unresolved issues from the past and meaningful priorities (p. 64-65).
"Character" is described as "the person [others] view as the most trustworthy, who cares the most and who is willing to always do the right thing," and according to Dungy, it is the "glue that bonds solid and meaningful relationships" (p. 71). In chapter 4, Dungy presents the characteristics he believes are "marks" of a good mentor. These "marks" include competence, integrity, authenticity, courageous, faithfulness, accountable, available/approachable, loyalty, and protectiveness (p. 72-91). Throughout this chapter (and the whole book), Dungy uses Biblical references to support his points. For example, Dungy states, "a genuine sense of self-worth is best obtained through a relationship with God" (p. 74). In another part of the chapter, Dungy discusses the parable found in the book of John, chapter 10, to illustrate the "mark" of protectivenessâ€”"When a wolf comes and threatens the flock, the hired hand runs away. . . . the shepherd on the other hand, rises to the defense of his sheep" (p. 94).
Dungy starts chapter 6 with a Scripture verse from the book of Matthew: "Jesus said, â€˜It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth. . . . The words you speak come from the heartâ€”that's what defiles you'" (Matt. 15:11, 18). He uses this Bible passage to show that mentoring starts in the heart of the mentorâ€”basically, what is inside determines what will come out (p. 123). Dungy claims that people will notice various things about other individuals: their faith, their words and actions, and their legacy (p. 124-135). When discussing faith, Dungy says, "Faith is the foundation and strength of the mentor . . . . the guiding principle behind everything we do . . . . Faith will go a long way toward giving others a reason to follow you" (p. 134-135). Dungy believes that the "many things that guide the daily steps of mentors" (relationships, impact, involvement, character, faith, and actions) shape one's legacy; "legacy" results in "changed lives" (p. 136, 138). In other words, a mentor is successful if he or she contributes to the positive changes in other people's lives. Dungy's use of the Bible shows that God's Word is important to him. It also shows that even if a mentor has all the necessary traits necessary, it is God who ultimately changes peopleâ€” "with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).