Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy, was granted the Aegis by Zeus after she won a terrible battle with Pallas. This was a gift, a father’s blessing and protective intervention all rolled into one. She had won the battle unfairly, and in a way was handed the Aegis (a shield in the form of a goatskin cape) to protect her from others and to protect her from herself (even the goddess of wisdom and inspiration needed a hand). Over time Athena added to her Aegis making it an even stronger asset than the original artifact, she used it wisely and donned it only in the aid of other heroes. The message in stories like these translate into the business world as well, sharing the gift of wisdom and good advice is the highest responsibility of a leader in the business of cultivating others. The generosity of mindshare from such benefactors in turn has a ripple effect that can cascade to many others. In the corporate world, these benefactors usually present themselves as mentors or sponsors who can go a long way in shaping one’s worldview and one’s career (and in some cases even one’s life). A believer in the tradition of mentoring, I know that when done in earnest, this mindshare tap is the most distilled version of knowledge sharing.
An inspiring example of a mentoring crucible is the Unreasonable Institute, where the perfectly hungry learners (mentees) and the perfectly eager teachers (mentors) meet for 6 weeks every year to infuse life into a social cause, a passion that is greater than themselves or an enterprise. The Unreasonable Institute arms entrepreneurs creating solutions to the world’s biggest social and environmental problems with the mentorship, capital, and networks they need to do so. Stories abound where social good entrepreneurs put their skills, time and energy towards catalyzing positive social impact (a newly published book by Ashoka’s Head of Global Marketing, Rippling has many examples). Organizations like the CGI , the Gates Foundation and Millenium Villages Project have done tremendous work in raising consciousness around mission-based ventures. But what impresses me about the Unreasonables is the organized focus on Mentoring - exemplary of what is possible. The Aegis that these mentors are passing on will have ripple effects in more ways than one.
The photo? Athena’s statue in the Library of Congress, Washington DC.