5 Characteristics of a Great Mentor

by Ron Haynes

It’s just human intuition to seek out a mentor. We instinctively know that if we can learn what’s worked for others, there’s a greater likelihood we will experience success when we emulate them, and in most cases, it’s helpful to find a mentor and learn to emulate their success patterns.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

Why choose a mentor? People choose to enter into a mentoring relationship for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Career issues
  • Advice on budgeting
  • Parenting help
  • Managing others
  • Marital advice
  • Learning to negotiate
  • Financial guidance
  • Learning to be a better writer
  • A desire to make extra money

Regardless of why you’re choosing to enter into a mentoring relationship, the personal characteristics of who you choose to be your mentor should be consistent.

invest, investor, investing, lending

Been there, done that

You want a mentor who has experience doing the very thing you hope to learn. This person should have many experiences and should know exactly how to assist you along the way in this mentoring relationship. They say that experience is the best teacher and it’s true, but the second best teacher is someone else’s experience … as long as you’re willing to listen and they have succeeded in doing what you want to learn.

The key issue: specifically, how does your mentor’s experience match what YOU want to accomplish?


Integrity is traditionally defined as honesty and you certainly don’t want a mentor that will lie to you, but integrity also means wholeness, completeness, and soundness. Think of the “integrity” of a ship’s hull or an airplane’s wing. You want a mentor that is sound in their thinking, complete in their experiences (a few failures along the way is a good thing), and well rounded in the area you hope to master.

The key issue: does this mentor’s personal character match your values?


Don’t waste your time trying to learn from someone you cannot connect with. That mentoring relationship will never work. Being able to connect with your mentor on several levels will insure you develop that same well-roundedness that you’re mentor hopefully possesses.

The key issue: is there a bond between you and your chosen mentor?


When your mentor is faced with a stress filled situation, how does he or she act? Composure is the mark of experience and a well rounded mentor doesn’t blow off steam, freak out, or panic when things don’t go just right. Your mentor should be able to handle most situations with poise and composure.

The key issue: does your proposed mentor have an air of balanced assurance?


The best mentors have that 6th sense when it comes to their area of expertise. It really isn’t a sense in the paranormal sense of the word – it really stems from experience. A great mentor will instinctively know when you’ve learned enough for one day, will have insights to things that aren’t readily evident to you, and will seem to know what to do without going through a rational process. As you spend time with your mentor, you’ll probably pick up on his or her thought processes and begin to figure out that they can “read” people, understand market shifts, or grasp what you’re trying to write on a deeper level.

The key issue: does your mentor have an innate knowledge of the area you wish to master?

When it comes time to choose a mentor, choose carefully. You want a teacher who not only has all the characteristics listed above, but also is the type of person your wish to become. You become like those you hang around so again, choose carefully. Few things are as frustrating as being disappointed by someone you looked to for guidance.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 988 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.