Wanted: A Hand to Guide Me

If you can't find a mentor, maybe you need to commit to being one.

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I believe in mentorship, and study after study shows that it can be the critical difference in who moves forward at a company, in an industry or profession, in society and in life in general, and who gets left behind. Mentors are desperately needed in the black community, in particular, in the ‘hood, in college, in corporate America, in business, in church–everywhere. However, too often we only think of mentorship in terms of getting others to mentor us, not in terms of actively looking for opportunities to mentor others. Until this changes, there will always be a shortage of mentors.

Actor Denzel Washington also emphasizes the importance of mentors in his book, A Hand to Guide Me: Legends and Leaders Celebrate the People Who Shaped Their Lives (2006, Meredith Books). Like Washington and others in his book, I’ve been blessed by great mentors, including my third grade teacher Donna Ware (an adored friend to this day), Time Magazine Group Executive Editor Sheryl Hilliard Tucker, and others who mentor me in areas ranging from leadership and parenting, to bodybuilding and spirituality.

The people who honor me as their mentor range from my children to current and former interns and employees of Black Enterprise to professionals and entrepreneurs who are accomplished in their own right. I’ve enjoyed extended relationships with some of these friends and have been only an occasional source of support and advice for others. In a few richly rewarding cases, the mentorship relationship is a mutual one, with each person pouring into the other. My two-decade-plus relationship with Black Enterprise Editor-in-Chief Derek T. Dingle is a perfect example of such a relationship in my life.

However, in every case, I gain far more than I give to these relationships–not the least of which is the great pride I take in seeing them grow into the greatness and purpose that God intends for their lives. I am especially thrilled to see how enthusiastically most of the people I’ve mentored go on to pursue the mentorship of others. They understand that the true measure of a successful person is his or her willingness to replicate the probability of success for others, to help create other successful people. It’s not just about how high you climb, and who can pull you up; it is also about who you pull up, and maybe even push higher above or ahead of you.

Anyone can be a mentor–especially you. If you are a recent college graduate, you can help encourage someone still in college or high school. If you are in high school, you can encourage the dreams of

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  • Jr

    Hi Alfred,
    Thanks for giving me a lot of freedom to grow at BE as an intern. It’s definitely developed in me a can-do attitude that I hope to pass on to as many as cross my path.

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