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The Impact of Mentoring on Leadership Identity Annelies Meulepas 1 , Koen Marichal 1 ; Jesse Segers 2 1 Antwerp Management School, Belgium 2 University of Antwerp/Antwerp Management School, Belgium The Future Leadership Initiative. 1. Introduction. Aim.

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The Impact of Mentoring on Leadership Identity

  • Annelies Meulepas1, Koen Marichal1; Jesse Segers2

  • 1Antwerp Management School, Belgium

  • 2 University of Antwerp/Antwerp Management School, Belgium

  • The Future Leadership Initiative

1. Introduction


Only one study that links mentoring with leadership development (Lester, Hannah, Harms, Vogelgesang, & Avolio, 2011)

Aim: Open and explorative research format to investigate the impact of mentoring on leadership development




= a developmentalrelationshipbetween a more experienced and a lessexperiencedperson (Kram, 1985)

  • Not necessarily direct supervisor/member of the organization

  • Mentor= an influentialperson, devoted to support and promote the mentee’scareerusing the ownknowledge and experience

    • 2 functions: personal & professionaldevelopment

Important features


Important features

Life cycle of 4 phases (1 – 5 years)

Formal vs. Informal mentoring

  • Informal mentoring => betterresults (Underhill, 2006)

    Relationship quality& motivation as crucial factors


Leadership is more than a role, leadership as a matter of identity(Day, Harrisson, & Halpin, 2009)

  • Self-image  static or one-dimensional

  • Possible selves (Ibarra,2010)

3 leadershipidentities

  • “personaldominance”

  • “influence”

  • “relationaldialogue”

(Drath 2001 in Day et al., 2009)


Leader identitydevelopment = a social process

  • It is a relationalcategory

  • With 3 aspects (DeRue & Ashford, 2010):

    • Personalinternalization

    • Relational recognition

    • Collective empowerment

Developing versus learning

“Development of any system = purposefulsimultaneoustransformationtowardhigherlevels of differentiation and integration.” (Gharajedaghi, 1999)

  • plannedreflection

  • organizedexperience

  • feedback

  • support

(Robert Kegan, 2010)

(Daniel Day et al., 2011)

Leadership & mentoring

Mentoring’spotential to develop leadership identity:

  • By definition, mentoringrelationship to develop the mentee, bothprofessionally and personally

  • reflection, experiences, feedback and support as important ways to come to suchdevelopment

Research context

Formalmentoring program of a Flemish management association (vMA)

Open instructions

Data collection

Semi-structured interviews

Interview questions:

  • Concreteactivities, change in leadership of the mentee, otherspecificeffects, probable causes

  • Extra question mentors: impact on ownlearningexperience and leadership vision

    18 interviews (2 excluded)

    To minimizebias: 2 interviewers, anonimityreassurance, setting, handwritten notes, common interview protocol

  • Limitations: cross sectional, smallsample

Data analysis

Based on an inductive, groundedtheorydevelopmentprocess (Eisenhardt; 1989)

Iterativeprocess => data - relevant literature - ownemerging concepts

  • Focus on the ‘how’ and ‘why’

    Independent analysis by 2 of the authors – 3th author as guard of objectivity

    Comparing 10 cases throughsubsequent rounds of coding and analysis

General findings

Overcoming the distance, bothhiërarchical as content-wise

"... Of course you go there with a healthy dose of tension..." (YM6)

"A whole other world opened for me." (YM3)

The importance of matching

" clicked and that is really important ..." (YM2)

Self disclosure and trust

"Open atmosphere is very important, it seems evident, but nevertheless it’s crucial." (YM9)

"A very good relationship arised. Confidence, complete confidence, so I felt that I could discuss everything with him/her, that I could really trust him/her. "(WM4)

General findings

  • Increased self-confidence of the mentees,…

    "It has given me confidence. That's in my opinion the strength of the program. "(YM8)

    …which made change possible

    e.g. changes in theirprofessionalcontext

    "I do not think he/she realizes that he/she really had an impact on my choice." (YM4)

General findings

Mentors and theireffects

 "... It was very refreshing, to get to talk with someone openly about “what are the fundamentals? What is it really all about?" (WM6)

“ It makes you think about yourself. Questions are asked concerning things you don’t really think consciously about.” (WM5)

Differentlevel of reciprocity


  • the mentor as coach

  • the mentor as advisor

  • the mentor as tour guide

Otherinfluencing factors

Preliminary motivation

  • Motivation lettersmentees => corresponding the outcomes

  • Only one mismatch

    Complementarity and leadership identities

  • Differencesreported as factor of success

  • Advisory mentors: highlighting the similarity as important

    => learningquickly

    Maturity of mentors

Developed conceptual framework

Initial setting




Instrumental learning



Stronger leadership identity

Informal format



Overcoming Distance








Relational quality



Positive match



Open world








Tour guiding

Morerelational leadership scheme





Limitationsandfuture research


  • Cross-sectional

  • Built on an existing program

    Future research

  • Eachlink in previousframework

  • Possible hypotheses:

    • The orientation to lead of mentors defines their mentoring style

    • Mentors with a relational orientation to leadership are more effective in developing leadership identity

    • Mentors with a tour guiding style develop relations with a higher quality and therefore obtain overall higher outcomes

    • The right balance between distance and initial trust is needed as condition for an effective mentoring relation

    • Mentoring is effective for leadership identity development because of the initial hierarchical distance

Practical implications

Mentoringindeed a specific and valuable impact on leadership and identitydevelopment

  • General practical implications

    • Informal setting to enhanceintrinsic motivation and trust building

    • Certain level of support

    • The importance of the matchingprocess

Practical implications

Mentoringindeed a specific and valuable impact on leadership and identitydevelopment

  • Leadership development implications

    • Mentors’ leadership identity and mentoring style

    • Menteespreliminary motivation

    • ‘Tour guiding’ style => strongest impact

      Throughexercisingmentoring, the mentors reinforcetheirown leadership identity