Strong leadership often comes from the mentorship of great leaders and their leadership styles. In this video, Don Yaeger, best-selling author, international speaker and former associate editor of Sports Illustrated magazine, gives real-life examples of what it takes to make the most of mentoring relationships with great leaders in business and sports.
Beginning with stories from his long-time mentor, Coach John Wooden --who lead the UCLA basketball team to 10 national titles -- and ending with stories from his time as a “mentee” under Walter Payton, Don walks us through lessons that are key to learning at every stage of a leadership journey. And that includes learning what it takes to be a great mentee.
Don explains that mentors shape and sharpen their mentee’s skill set. But how do you find a mentor who is right for you? Don says, “You have to go out and find others from whom you can learn.” In addition, your mentor should be someone who is willing and grateful to invest his or her time in you. But the mentee has a job, too – you can’t just show up and expect to learn. In this video, Don also shares tips for being a great mentee -- lessons he learned from his time with former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
“I would take a subject and I would think of as many questions as I could ask [Coach Wooden] about that subject, so that when I arrived I could ask questions all day long, because I knew the recorder went off the second I asked my last question. Coach Wooden required me to be well prepared, as a mentee, to learn from him.” Making the most of a mentorship means that both the mentor and mentee prepare for their time together.
Another great mentor to Don was former NFL player, Walter Payton. Don explains that as great a football legend that Payton was, “he was an even greater man.” Don says that he learned “beyond you” leadership from Payton, who had a lifelong motto: “Choose to do something every day for someone who cannot return the favor.”
Have you had a mentor or mentee who made a huge impact on your life? Share in the comment section below! See more of our Leadership Principles videos here
So two people that I would tell you, that I've had the chance to work with, that would really change perspectives for me were John Wooden, the great basketball coach at UCLA who won 10 national titles. I had the opportunity over the 12 years of his life to have Coach Wooden as a mentor. I would fly out to California about every other month to spend time a day learning with Coach Wooden, and he taught me about the power of mentorship, how to be extraordinary. You have to go out and find others from whom you can learn. But it was also about how to be a great mentee. Coach Wooden demanded of me, when I came out to do our sessions, that I was the driver of the conversation. How many people that are a mentee in relationships show up and the first question is, "What have you got for me today?" Coach Wooden, the second I stopped asking him questions, the conversation was over. So my job was to come fully prepared to learn from him, and I would take a subject about teambuilding, or leadership, or whatever. I would take a subject, and I would think of as many questions as I could ask him about that subject so that when I arrived, I could ask questions all day long, because I knew the recorder went off the second I asked my last question. Coach Wooden required me to be well prepared, as a mentee, to learn from him. The other person that we talked about that I would tell you really was impactful to me was Walter Payton. Walter, greatest running back in the history of the National Football League, long-time holder of the all-time leading rushing record in the league. Walter won the Super Bowl in '85. Amazing guy. Better man than he was a football player. And I had the opportunity to live and work with Walter for the last 10 weeks of his life and write his autobiography. Walter talked to me a lot about the importance of doing something every day for someone who can't return the favor, about making daily charity a piece of your development. Be intentionally impactful daily in the lives of other people. And he actually shared with me a quote that he had cut out from a magazine. It was from John Wooden ironically, small world, and the quote said, "You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who cannot return the favor, who cannot repay you." And, you know, Walter said that was a driving force in what he believed allowed him to live what he would say was a successful life. It wasn't about record or numbers on the football field. It was about daily being invested in the lives of other people.