It takes a certain kind of leader to sponsor other leaders around them to be leaders.
Gary identifies talented people and nurtures them into potential senior leaders by challenging them to take on bold commitments which stretch their own perceptions of their leadership capability.
That translates into him believing in people, sometimes more than they believe in themselves. They may not be ready for a big new role today, but he wants to see if they exhibit the key behaviours that will make them a future leader.
Talent alone is not enough in his view. He looks for people who show the willingness to step outside their comfort zone, deliver on their promises and take on feedback. If they display these key behaviours, he will move beyond being a mentor to act as a sponsor for them. Gary and sponsors like him invest their own reputation into advocating for people who they believe will make outstanding leaders.
In the HBR article, Sponsors Need to Stop Acting Like Mentors, the authors Julia Taylor Kennedy and Pooja Jain-Link summarise their research on the effectiveness of sponsorship. They outline three primary responsibilities for a sponsor:
✴️ Believe in and go out on a limb for their protégé
✴️ Use their organizational capital, both publicly and behind closed doors, to push for their protégé’s promotion
✴️ Provide their protégé with ‘air cover’ for risk-taking. This means shielding the protégé from critics and naysayers as they explore out-of-the box ideas and work on stretch assignments to set them apart from peers.
A major finding in the research is that sponsorship carries dividends. Sponsors in the study were more likely than non-sponsors to report being satisfied with their own advancement, being engaged at work, being able to deliver on “mission-impossible” projects and having a bench of talent that expands their skill sets.
In Gary’s case, he gets the reward of paying forward the support he received from sponsors in his career.
🙋 What is your experience about the value of mentoring and sponsorship? 🙋♀️
Best regards, Brian