How can we become happy in life and carry on growing?  One of the best ways is to choose an inspirational mentor. Here are 10 tips on how to choose a great mentor, based on my experience of both business and Buddhism. Choose someone who:

Toda & Ikeda

1. has been and remains a brilliant pupil / follower himself
2. sees your brilliance when you cannot find it any more
3. has strong enough self-esteem and humility to celebrate your successes rather than feel threatened by them
4. will stretch you to your limits (and beyond) while supporting you to the max
5. will hold you accountable when you can’t quite find the courage or honesty to do so

 [pic shows SGI’s Daisaku Ikeda with his late mentor Josei Toda]

6. can see when you’re beating yourself up and help you ‘get over yourself’
7. can see when you’re being arrogant and help you get over yourself
8. shares a powerful mission and sense of purpose with you
9. does not want to be worshipped, knowing that followers stagnate and stop taking responsibility when they put leaders on a pedestal.
10. will know he has only truly succeeded when he sees you outperform him

Does your line manager do all (or any…) of the above? And if you are leading a team, how good are you at doing these 10 things day in, day out? Go on, be honest with yourself. As a Coach, I aim to bring these 10 qualities to all my conversations with clients.

For 12 million SGI Buddhists worldwide, Nichiren Daishonin, Daisaku Ikeda and Josei Toda have been such mentors, because they have been brilliant disciples themselves. They also fought relentlessly for other people’s happiness before most of us even realised it was possible.

And John Delnevo, whom I mentioned in a previous post, showed the perfect combination of strictness and compassion. Compassion without strictness is comforting, but ineffective. Strictness without compassion is disrespectful.

In my previous career I was lucky enough to work for a great Managing Director called Alan Jones (OBE), leader of a global business with 45,000 people. He once explained to me that his main job was to “create a climate of enthusiasm and success,” a mission he accomplished very successfully, by the way. Alan was also a master at no.4 in the above list. He would stretch his people beyond our self-imposed limits, in fact he was exceptionally demanding. But he also gave us all the support we needed to succeed. To the max. Alan taught me that to stretch someone without supporting them is a recipe for failure; and to support them without stretching them doesn’t get the job done.

Great mentors and leaders place equal emphasis on you achieving your full potential while reminding you of your personal accountability when you fall short of what you can achieve. Coaches do the same, and sometimes I have to do some ‘tough talking’ with my clients so that they get the breakthrough they say they want. We don’t always like our mentors very much, but we can see that what they say is true.

SGI’s President Daisaku Ikeda (1928 – ), describing his mentor Josei Toda (1900-58) says: “Mr Toda’s training was extremely tough and demanding. He seldom praised or thanked me directly. In fact, his demeanour suggested that it was only to be expected that I would fight and win. But in his heart, he deeply appreciated and understood every single effort I made to protect and support him. He was a great mentor. I don’t think anyone in the world could compare with him. And yet he had so much gratitude for me.”