Formal and Informal Mentoring Strategies: Why Use Both?
Every type of organization needs strong, effective leadership, including the Church and its many denominations. Though numerous studies have purported the existence of a leadership gap in Christian higher education and the Church, many current leaders lack an intentional leadership pathway for those will succeed them (Daloz,2012; Dunbar & Kinnersley, 2011; Ghosh, 2015; Leck, Elliot & Rockwell, 2012). Where leader development pathways do exist, the methods most often employed are traditional or formal mentoring strategies. Formal mentoring is often defined as “the one-on-one relationship between a more-experienced and a less-experienced person, whose personal and professional growth it is intended to promote” (Du & Wang, 2017; Wanberg, Welsh, & Hezlett, 2003). However, most formal mentoring relationships are often short-term organizational assignments that provide organizational knowledge and support that focuses on outcomes, effectiveness, and processes related to task (Joo, Yu, & Atwater, 2018; Izadina, 2015).
Although the core attributes of mentoring remain intact since Kram’s (1985) seminal work on mentoring, scholars agree that the concept of mentoring has evolved and diversified. A growing body of research suggests that informal mentoring is generally more effective and satisfying than formal mentoring (Du & Wang, 2017). Informal mentoring can be defined as the development of a relationship between “a mentor and a protégé who have mutual interests and is more likely to involve friendship and support between a mentor and a protégé” (Joo, Yu, & Atwater, 2018). These relationships often more long-lasting and focus on the deeper development of the protégé as both a person and a leader in both life and vocation (Irby, 2012).
Another permutation of mentoring includes the development of a mentoring constellation. Johnson (2016) suggested that most of individuals require more than one helping relationships during important periods throughout their lives and careers. So instead of relying solely on the one wise sage, protégés would develop a constellation of multiple formal and informal mentoring relationships that would meet their multiple personal and professional needs in a very organic way (Johnson, 2016).
Though many emerging leaders may possess some innate leadership abilities, leadership skills are most often modeled and intentionally learned using a variety of teaching and learning strategies including mentoring (Daloz, 2012; Falaye & Oluwole, 2011; Ghosh, 2015). Many studies have indicated that mentoring has many benefits as a strategy for leader development, including increased motivation to learn, self-efficacy, and motivation to lead (Izadina, 2015; Joo, Chang, & Atwater, 2018). Dahlvig (2013) recommended the creation of cultures that help to develop and sustain mentor-protégé relationships that support the development of the leader for both life and vocation.
The Trivium Institute for Leader Development, and both President’s church communities intentionally engage both formal and informal mentoring strategies that foster the development of the leader. At The Trivium Institute we offer a mentor certification program to leaders who desire to intentionally foster personal and professional development of their emerging leaders. Both Presidents also have created several learning environments in their local churches that invite potential future leaders into the process of leader development. The leadership gap in the Church will remain unless the current leaders engage an intentional process that fosters growth in a healthy community. I would suggest that we engage a both/and attitude for the creation of environments and strategies, both formal and informal, to prepare our emerging leaders to step into their calling and position in the future.
Dahlvig, J. E. (2013). A narrative study of women leading within the Council for
Christian Colleges & Universities. Christian Higher Education, 12(1/2), 93-109.
Daloz, L.A. (2012). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners. San Francisco, CA:
Du, F., & Wang Q. (2017). New teachers’ perspectives of informal mentoring: Quality of
mentoring and contributors. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25
(3), 309-328. doi:10.1080/13611267.2017.1364841
Dunbar, D. R., & Kinnersley, R. T. (2011). Mentoring female administrators toward
leadership success. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 77(3), 17-24. Retrieved from:
Falaye, A., & Oluwole, D. A. (2011). Chapter 25: The Christian perspective on mentor-
protégé. IFE PsychologIA: An International Journal, Special Issue 1 (1), 327-336.
Retrieved from: https://journals.co.za/content/ifepsyc/2011/si-1/EJC38490
Ghosh, R. (2015). Teaching case study - mentoring - is it failing women? New Horizons
in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 27(4), 70-74.
Irby, B.J. (2012). Editor’s overview: Mentoring, tutoring, and coaching. Mentoring &
Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20, 297-301.
Izadina, M. (2015). Talking the talk and walking the walk: Pre-service teachers’
evaluation of their mentors. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 23:4,
Johnson, W.B. (2016). On Being a Mentor. New York, NY: Routledgge.
Joo, M-K., Yu G-C., & Atwater, L. Formal leadership mentoring and motivation to lead in
South Korea. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 127, 310-326.
Kram, K.E. (1985). Mentoring at Work. Glenview, IL: Scott, Forsman, and Company.
Leck, J. D., Elliott, C., & Rockwell, B. (2012). E-mentoring women: Lessons learned
from a pilot program. Journal of Diversity Management (Online), 7(2), 83.
Retrieved from https://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-
Wanberg, C.R., Welsh, E.T., & Hezlett, S.A. (2003). Mentoring research: A review and
dynamic process model. In M.R. Buckley, J.R.B. Halbesleben, & A.R. Wheeler
(Eds.), Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 22, 39-124.
Retrieved from: https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1016/S0742-
Linda Brady is the Director of Program Development of The Trivium Institute for Leader Development, in Bedford, New Hampshire. Linda and her husband Jack serve as part of the Pastoral Team at Trinity Life Community under Pastors Tom & Cathy Johnston. Linda is an educationist whose experience includes the founding and development of two Christian middle-high schools in Massachusetts, and serving as a professor for the New England Bible Institute, Momentum School for Leadership, and Crucible Emerging Leader Network, also in Massachusetts.
She received her Masters of Adult Education and Training from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and is a PhD candidate with Walden University. Linda has authored two books on research and writing. Linda and her husband Jack reside in New Hampshire with their dog Gracie. They have two wonderful sons Matthew and Patrick, two daughters-in-love Lindsay and Tracey, and two beautiful granddaughters Anabelle and Lilah.