I am fortunate to have people in my life whom I consider mentors. For the most part, these people have been in positions of power, somewhere above me on the food chain. I learn a lot from these people, and I look up to them gratefully. If you have someone like this in your life, nurture that relationship and glean all you can from it.
If you really want to learn, though, don’t spend all your time looking up. Look around and down, too. Look to your peers, to your staff (if you have one), even to your children. You’ll be surprised at the number of teachable moments you find where YOU are the student.
Here’s an example. The other day, I watched one of my staff members deal with a difficult situation. (Out of respect for the people involved, I will not specifically describe the situation here. I hope you understand.) As I observed, I felt immensely fortunate to be present, because I learned a lot that day. It forced me to consider how I would handle a similar situation and which parts of this person’s approach I could exercise effectively. I also recognized which parts of the approach I likely couldn’t pull off at all. In addition, I came away with a clearer picture of how I could support this person as a manager and, hopefully, a mentor. I entered the situation with the goal of finding resolution; instead, I also found a bit of clarity.
Teachable moments are all around you. Don’t spend so much time looking up to a mentor that you miss the moments right under your nose.