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Do you know who’s on your personal board of directors?
As a successful executive, whether you’re conscious of it or not, you likely have one. Your personal board of directors is the circle of mentors who’ve helped shape and guide your career, and, if they’re an effective circle, they’re likely a mix of personal and professional connections.
But who, exactly, should be represented on your board? We polled other executives and company leaders for the types of mentors they think every solid mentorship circle needs.
1. The Contrarian
What The Contrarian does for a living isn’t important; it’s the attitude they bring to the table that counts, Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, said.
“What’s important is that this person often has views and perspectives that are different than your own, and perhaps different than the masses,” Alexis said. “The reason The Contrarian is so important is that otherwise, your mentorship circle can suffer from confirmation bias — if you hear what you want to hear, then you create blind spots and may not be making the best decisions to move yourself and your business forward.”
2. The Anchor
Like The Contrarian, Anchors don’t necessarily need to be in your industry. They could even be a family member or friend, Jason Feldman, Founder at Immigrate Me, explained.
“Your anchor will serve as a confidante and sounding board,” Feldman said. “I believe that we all face speedbumps and periods of uncertainty in our lives, and that we need someone to give us a psychological boost and help us see light through the cracks during these times. The Anchor may be particularly insightful when it comes to defining priorities, achieving work-life balance and not losing sight of your values, because they are looking out for your overall best interests.”
3. The Reverse Mentor
We all know the value of peer and senior mentors. But your mentorship circle should include those younger than you too, Gerrid Smith, CMO at Joy Organics, said.
“When we hear the word ‘mentor,’ we usually think of an older person or a teacher. However, I believe the opposite is equally vital,” Smith said. “Even if they have fewer years in the workplace than you, pay attention to what you can learn from the folks you’re mentoring. Speaking from personal experience, talking to my mentees allows me to get feedback on my leadership style, engage with the younger generation, and keep my perspectives current.”
4. The Aspirational Mentor
Simply put, your Aspirational Mentor is someone you can consistently look to for inspiration, Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director of Green Building Elements, said.
“These are individuals at any level of the business who possess attributes you like and wish to develop in your own personality,” Jameson said. “In fact, Aspirational Mentors don’t even have to be employees of your company to serve as role models. They can very well be people whose life experiences, abilities and talents have placed them in a position where others can benefit from their knowledge and expertise. Brené Brown, for example, is someone who inspires others with her work and is likely considered a mentor by millions of people.”
5. The Connections Expert
These are people whose connections you can benefit from — and ideally, they’ll be able to say the same about you. The best Connections Expert dynamics are symbiotic ones, Bram Jansen, Chief Editor of vpnAlert, said.
“Marketers recognize the importance of networking to effectively market, advertise, and sell their products,” Jansen said. “You establish a pact with different types of people who have complementary or supplemental goals when you share knowledge and form relationships. This allows you to rely on each other for support and referrals, or act as a conduit for others to help you, expand your client base, and advance your career.”
6. The Contingency Specialist
The Contingency Specialist in your mentorship circle is someone who’s “known to thrive in unexpected situations,” Rameez Usmani, Tech and Security Expert at Code Signing Store, said.
“Contingency Specialists enjoy the challenge of correcting errors, overcoming obstacles, and putting things back on track,” Usmani said. “They thrive on the opportunity to ‘turn things around’ and can foresee disasters and catastrophes that could derail your plans. Because your path to achieving is unlikely to be simple and straight, you’ll need this person in your inner circle to push you and bring out that backup plan.”
7. The Master of Your Craft
This is perhaps what most people traditionally picture when they think of a mentor; they’re in your industry, and they’re likely even holding the exact job you’re ultimately after. This mentor is an expert whose example you can learn from, Lee Grant, CEO at Wrangu, said.
“This is the Yoda of all business mentors — your ultimate sifu,” Grant said. “This is a person with years of expertise who can teach you practical knowledge to help fine-tune your abilities. They can assist you in identifying and executing your strengths in order to achieve your desired level of excellence.”
8. The In-the-Same-Boat Friend
Very much not a professional connection, this mentor is someone in your personal circle whose goals and values align with your own, Dr. Maria Mirzaei, a leadership coach, said.
“It’s greatly satisfying when you have a friend who’s in the same boat as you,” she said. “She gets you when you talk about your long challenge of building a strong managerial team, how to inspire them to follow your vision and mission, or even when you’re stressed due to the nature of your position. It’s deeply satisfying to be able to have a chat with a friend who understands you and your situation completely, and to be allies to each other on your leadership journey.”
9. The Constructive Critic
This is the person you know will always give you their full, unvarnished opinion — for better and oftentimes for worse, Stephen Curry, CEO of CocoSign, said.
“A Constructive Critic makes you more productive,” he said. “This person will shape your ideas, vision, and decisions. They not only evaluate your work, but they’ll also inspire you to make changes for good. It’s always good to have an expressive person in your circle who’s open to giving feedback rather than flattery.”
10. The Economic Guru
Especially as an executive, it’s essential that someone in your circle is qualified to give you expert insight on money matters, Chris Taylor, Marketing Director at ProfitGuru, said.
“Without a financial expert in your circle — unless you are one yourself! — you’re less likely to gain intimate knowledge of detailed money measurements,” Taylor said. “This individual lives to observe stocks daily and may work with numbers on a daily basis. The added benefit of having them in your circle is that they can advise you on personal and professional financial objectives, investments, and emerging enterprises in domestic and international markets.”
Ready to add to your mentorship circle? Connect with an IvyExec mentor!