06/11/2013 04:21 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2013

Under His Wing... Should You Take Flight With a Male Mentor?

There is much buzz lately about women helping other women grow in the corporate world. Women in leadership positions are being asked to help more junior women to follow the path they did. So, this then raises the question: Who helped these female leaders get to where they are today? According to a recent USA Today survey of female CEOs, chairs and company founders, when asked to identify the one mentor who had the most influence on their careers, 33 of 34 of the respondents named a man. Now we might hear women respond that the reason this is the case is due to women being extremely underrepresented in leadership positions and these women didn't have any other women to seek out. That's most definitely the case.

However, let's be honest -- men have so much to teach us about how to gain great success (if that's what you what) in the corporate arena. It's not that you're looking to become like a man, but learn from him as a human being. That's where a lot of women get stuck -- they don't see the value of having a male mentor and how he has the ability to lift them up. Instead, they focus on joining the leagues of male bashers and decry the workings of the Old Boys' Club. And continuing to focus on this will not get us any further in advancing women into managerial and leadership positions. Here are some of the benefits of having a male mentor:

  • Men have the power to make women great because they have the influence and experience, i.e. they've been there and done that.
  • Men value the fact that women are totally interested in getting the job done vs. playing games or engaging in politics.
  • Men will tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. This can be hard to digest, but is absolutely crucial in leadership development.

Still not convinced that you should take flight with a male mentor? Look at the below reasons why you need a mentor:

  • He can be a sounding board when you need advice.
  • He will provide input on what career moves would benefit you.
  • He knows how to hold you accountable to commitments.
  • He will see potential in you when you don't see it in yourself.
  • He can share the learning lessons he encountered on his path to broaden your horizon.

When selecting a mentor though, you need to be make sure that you select one (or multiple) who will literally take you under his wing to help you advance. Questions to answer when selecting your mentor (or mentors):

  • Does he have what I want?
  • What strengths does he display that I want to acquire?
  • Does he show an interest in helping others grow within the organization?
  • Am I truly committed to a relationship with a mentor, i.e. am I willing to do what it takes?
  • Can I clearly communicate what I'm looking for from him?

Naturally, when you approach a mentor, you also have to feel the confidence within yourself that someone would want to mentor you. Many women are afraid to approach someone about mentorship because they fail to see their own true value. If this is the case for you, you have to just jump into the water and let go of holding onto that perception. You'll find that humans love to help one another. The person that you approach will most likely feel honored that you are considering him.

Also, if you find that working with a certain mentor isn't heading in the direction you need it to, you need to be honest with the person and communicate. Don't hold onto something that isn't of value to either you or your mentor.

Working with a mentor or multiple, can be one of the wisest career decisions you make. When selecting one, don't limit yourself by focusing on gender, but on what you have to learn. This should be the driving factor in your selection.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above. Just drop me a line below and let me know what your thoughts are.