Personal development: why today’s young leaders need individual coaching and mentoring

mentoring at work
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The next generation of leaders is coming of age in era of complex sociological and technological changes, creating new challenges for them as they progress in their careers. Growing pressures will lead to a rise in individual coaching and mentoring.

In truth, learning and taking inspiration from others has always been a fundamental part of personal development and growth both inside and outside of the workplace, but the genuine need for coaching and mentoring that is fit for purpose in today’s pressurised work place will become even more important in the future.

Modern society continues to build a highly pressurised environment for the young to grow within and this means that many lack the confidence to lead, grow and take risks because fear of failure is too great.

The school education system is partly to blame for this growing culture because it has moved from educating a well-rounded human being to being focused on attaining exam results and hitting national targets.

Some will argue that the younger generation is becoming more intelligent as a result of pushing them to their limits, but the counter argument is that many graduates are less rounded today and possess far less worldliness than previously generations that grew up in a fiercely independent culture.

Narrowed focus fed by growing pressure

At a higher level, the university system places more pressure on the young through large, spiraling debts and increased strain to land a job that earns enough to repay them.

There is little doubt that by the time our future graduates enter the workplace they will have already learned and grown in a narrowly focused, pressurised environment that doesn’t tolerate failure. This means there will be a need to nurture a broader focus and mindset, as it is only through understanding a wider perspective that one can really grow as a leader or insightful manager.

There is an exceptional level of young talent emerging that does want to create change but they possess a very different perspective to previous generations.

Learning from past generations and indeed different industries will become hugely important as new, younger leaders enter the workplace. There is an onus on older generations to support their development too and this is where experienced mentoring and coaching will play an invaluable role – helping develop a wider perspective and looking at issues through different eyes.

It is important for businesses today to create a legacy that allows the young to thrive, make mistakes and most importantly, to learn.

The rise of the ‘I’ society

The environment we now live in doesn’t make this an easy task. Research has indicated that teenagers spend around seven to eight hours per day on their smartphones.

There is also a strong belief today that social media in particular, allows for a far more critical approach to life that simply would never have happened in previous times.

One can see this with the Emily Benn story of recent weeks (the abuse she received across social media would never have happened in previous times or in the case of a face to face encounter).

For some reason, social media allows people greater access to behave more aggressively and inconsiderate than they would be in every day real life.

Companies invest great amounts into developing technical skills but maybe there is a greater need to develop the mindset of people, their approach and their understanding of their role within the community.

It’s no wonder that cases of mental illness and depression are on the increase. One could also argue that the digital world we live in has also heightened a growth in the ‘I’ society when actually the real natural desire is for a ‘we’ society.

There will be a natural swing back to the ‘we’ society eventually but there is still a need today for businesses to understand the developmental need and the mental approach of the young. The concern is that life as we know it will not change, so the focus must be on creating new approaches to help develop talent.

However, there is a deeper issue too. In today’s society there is a far lower level of personal accountability for one’s actions. People will readily blame mistakes or a crisis situation on mental instability or breakdown.

There are many who believe their morality in real life, while in an online world they can be genuinely different. There will be those who are more offensive online than they would ever behave in real life and many believe that this is acceptable.

Morality is becoming a moving feast; it used to be said that ethics was not for the convenient moment to make one look good, but for the inconvenient time when it may cause harm – that is how character used to be understood.

Coaching for the future

The positives are that there is an exceptional level of young talent emerging that does want to create change but they possess a very different perspective to previous generations.

So how can coaching and mentoring help new talent that is breaking through and how does one go about sharing knowledge in a way that resonates?

Maybe the starting place is teaching the importance of one’s accountability to the community and to others. One of the reasons that we bring sports players into the workplace to mentor is because they understand the importance of personal accountability and their role within a broader team.

The England Men’s 7’s team has a base ethos named ‘Permission to Play’ which outlines each player’s commitment to their friend and colleague and how they will behave towards achieving their goals.

Most sports players are measured in everything that they do from their exercise, training to what they eat and drink. They understand and accept the importance of their own behaviours.

Learning and development teams do generally build great programmes that develop skills and technical knowledge but most leaders will note that success is as much about character as it is about skill.

Companies invest great amounts into developing technical skills but maybe there is a greater need to develop the mindset of people, their approach and their understanding of their role within the community.

This is where mentors can and do make a difference – they bring a fresh perspective and can challenge the mentee in their thinking. The value of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) at board level has always been about holding the board and the CEO/MD to account.

A good mentor can also play this role but in a way that supports the development of the individual – to help them think for themselves and to find new solutions and new answers to their questions autonomously.

Interested in this topic? Read Soft skills: preparing the leaders of tomorrow.

About Chris Sheppardson

About Chris Sheppardson

Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Business in Hospitality (


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31st Oct 2018 14:16

An interesting read. I have worked with groups of graduate fast streamers in the last couple of years or so. What has struck me (and of course it might have been the same in 'my day') is that they and their employers have very high expectations of them but in fact they are offered very little by way of personal suppport. If they are lucky, they work for a good manager; if they are unlucky, they are left very much to their own devices. Many (not all) take feedback badly. They are used to doing well, often having done good degrees at excellent universities, and any suggestion that they are not in fact perfect (for example, may need to develop a particular skillset) is often met with particularly defensive behaviour. To me at least, more than the normal joe. A mis-match or a failure to perform can be an expensive and demoralising business. I am developing some idea around my own business about offering tailored support, coaching and training. Would organisations and/or recruitment agencies pay for this do you think?

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