THE BLOG

What Having a Mentor Really Means

02/09/2015 12:35 pm ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015
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Young musicians or athletes often grow up idolizing a great talent in their field, dreaming that someday they will become the next Bruce Springsteen or Mickey Mantle. As a businessman with over twenty years of experience, I've found that aspiring for greatness in the fast paced corporate world isn't all that different.

Throughout my career, I can say without a doubt that what has been the most influential for my professional growth has been the opportunity to observe firsthand the patterns, strengths and weaknesses of a large number of entrepreneurial business leaders. I've been able to observe many powerful people, in roles such as CEO, CFO, investors and boards of directors involved in private equity backed enterprises, within a vast array of industry sectors.

The biggest takeaway I've had from these experiences is that each person excels in their own way, and no two leaders are exactly the same. What I've also found true is that you can emulate the strengths of your mentors, but you also need to find your individual gifts, as well as the areas that you need to work on most.

Overall, the executives that have had the biggest influence on my career all seemed to be natural leaders with the highest levels of integrity and a clear code of ethics. While having a quiet confidence in themselves, they always have visible confidence in the team surrounding them. Many have exhibited their leadership best when leading by example and holding a firm view that transparency and collaboration is the key to success. These leadership traits are not only empowering to the team but also inspire confidence in the future leaders amongst the group.

For me, I had the good fortune of meeting Rob Cascella, former President and CEO at Hologic, in 2013, and he has since acted as my mentor. When I was first approached to lead Gamma Medica, my one hesitation was my lack of knowledge of the industry sector. Despite having plenty of entrepreneurial management and healthcare experience, this would be my first foray into woman's health and medical imaging. Having Rob, as one of the most influential and experienced business leaders in the industry, on my side, allowed me to take the risk and accept the position. Our backgrounds parallel in a number of ways which has helped to align Gamma Medica's goals cohesively.

In the past year, Rob has helped me become part of the women's health medical imaging landscape by introducing me to the most influential innovators and key opinion leaders in the marketplace. Even more, Rob's willingness to make these introductions helped me gain instant credibility. The relationships that I have been able to build and Gamma Medica has been able to benefit from, which directly resulted from Rob's guidance, are invaluable to Gamma Medica and are contributing to the growing adoption of molecular breast imaging.

For the future leaders out there, I do believe it is beneficial to have a mentor. As the marketplace continues to evolve so quickly, innovation has a short shelf life. The rapid evolution of markets often requires corporate strategies to also evolve rapidly. Without a mentor, it is simply impossible to assess the changes in the marketplace effectively and translate those observations into an appropriate strategy. An effective mentor understands the challenges and provides an unbiased and confident counterbalance to help management meet the needs of the market.

The mentor relationship is a critical part of filling in the gaps between the skills you possess and those you need to succeed as a leader. The most important skill I have learned from having a mentor is to find an effective method for compensating for weaknesses in my skills. Nobody has all of the skills, but effective leaders know their own weaknesses and great leaders have the confidence to find the right way to compensate for their weaknesses.