Women and Leadership …why sponsoring rather than mentoring makes a big difference – by Catriona Cookson

If you haven’t thought much about the difference then do take a read of this article from Herminia Ibarra , the Charles Handy Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School.

In it she outlines that women tend to be over mentored and under sponsored. And as a mentor is someone who has knowledge and will share it with you, and sponsor is someone who has power and will use it for you, there is an important distinction. Additionally, while an executive’s store of knowledge will not be depleted by sharing it, the political capital he or she spends fighting for someone to get a key assignment can no longer be used on something else.

However, Herminia argues that sponsorship should not be seen as an either / or role …there is a spectrum of input from mentor to strategiser, connector, opportunity giver to advocate. If you are looking for sponsorship you should be thinking strategically about how you can move along this range …and who is best placed to help you do this.

Women on their way up the career ladder often prefer (or are indeed assigned) female mentors who will have faced similar situations in their career. However, the real key is to find a sponsor who has power and influence and who will use this to your advantage …..and in many organisations this for the time being may still be a man.

If you feel you may benefit from some coaching on how to navigate your career progression, perhaps Liz Watt in our coaching division can help, please contact her for more details.


Women and Leadership

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