Part 1: Mentorship Programme for Life-Long Holistic Human Capital Development (DEFINITION)

The term mentoring has its roots in Greek mythology. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus entrusts his friend, Mentor, to look after his son, Telemachus, while he is away at war and prepare him to be king. The word Mentor came to mean teacher, educator or role model. Reading from Book Two titled, TELEMACHUS SETS SAIL, in HOMER - The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles, does confirm that Mentor did great work indeed. “When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more the true son of Odysseus sprang from bed and dressed, over his shoulder he slung his well-honed sword, fastened rawhide sandals under his smooth feet and stepped from his bedroom, handsome as a god. At once he ordered heralds to cry out loud and clear and summon the flowing-haired Achaeans to full assembly. Their cries rang out. The people filed in quickly. When they’d grouped, crowding the meeting grounds, Telemachus strode in too, a bronze spear in his grip and not alone: two sleek hounds went trotting at his heels. And Athena lavished a marvelous splendor on the prince so the people all gazed in wonder as he came forward, the elders making way as he took his father’s seat.” So, this was the inauguration of Telemachus, taking over as the replacement of his father, who was killed in the war, as the king. His father had foresight by assigning Mentor to look after him, as if he knew that he was not to come back from the war. This is the kind of foresight we want all leaders to have, and not to behave as if they will never leave their leadership positions.

Today we just know a mentor as a trusted person who offers his or her own knowledge to support, guide and encourage another, known as the mentee. We have different and special types of mentoring like Executive Mentoring, which aims to promote business executives’ development and learning. It helps improve executives’ leadership and management skills, and build charismatic leadership.

In their book CONNECTING (The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed In Life), Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton, define Mentoring as a relational process in which a mentor, who knows or has experienced something, transfers that something (resources of wisdom, information, experience, confidence, insight, relationships, status, etc.) to a mentee, at an appropriate time and manner, so that it facilitates development or empowerment. 

Stanley and Clinton also mention the three levels of mentorship relationship, namely, intensive (more deliberate), occasional (moderate), and passive (less deliberate). All the three levels require three additional factors, (i) Attraction; (ii) Responsiveness; and (iii) Accountability. The mentee is attracted to the mentor as a result of skills, experience, perceived wisdom, knowledge, influence, etc. whereas the mentor is attracted to the mentee by the attitude, potential, and opportunity for influence. The mentee must be responsive by being willing and ready to learn from the mentor. And lastly both the mentor and mentee must be accountable to each other, i.e. have mutual responsibility for each other, and ensure adherence to the mentoring process, make progress, and ultimately bring it to successful closure.

The following two quotes from two influential personalities clarifies the role of mentoring for us: 

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Steven Spielberg, Director, Producer, Screenwriter.

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” John C. Maxwell, Author, Speaker and Pastor.

There is a clear distinction between Training, Mentoring, and Coaching. 

Training can be offered either internally or externally. The trainer assumes the role of a teacher, imparting special or needs-based competency and knowledge components. It is a professional and behaviour-based development, mostly taking place in groups. 

Mentoring is mainly internal and mentor functions as a role model. Mentor offers specific and tangible assistance in practical situations, mostly on a one-on-one basis. It is primarily professional development and mediation through practical knowledge. We would like to believe that executive mentoring is there to impart business-related competency and problem-solving skills and builds up network.

On the other hand, Coaching is mainly external and the coach assumes the role of a tutor. It is carried out on a one-on-one basis, although these days we see more team or group coaching evolving. Coaching develops general individual competence and problem-solving skills. The Coach is a thinking partner of the coachee. Methodological knowledge supports the personal and professional development process.

I hope this introductory piece is informative and prepares you for our subsequent parts in this series, MENTORSHIP PROGRAMME FOR LIFE-LONG HOLISTIC HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT. In Part 2 we will look at the Methods and Tools for Mentoring, Roles of the Mentor, and Uses for Mentoring.

ABOUT SAM TSIMA: The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of COMETSA GoC International (Pty) Ltd, specialists in mentorship, coaching, advisory, networks, holistic human capital, management and leadership development consulting. You may contact Sam Tsima and COMETSA at email:; or visit our website:


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