Friday, June 29, 2012

Who Was the Original Mentor?

At Bloomberg Businessweek, Professor Warren Bennis explains the source of the word and concept of  mentor. The classical story he tells elaborates on the collaborative role that a good mentor plays:

The great Greek warrior Odysseus was going off to battle, pained over the prospect of leaving Telemachus, his 11-year-old son, pretty much on his own. It also worried the supreme goddess, Athena. So, being a goddess with supernatural powers, she converted a stem cell of her own—how else?—into a half-man, half-woman residing in one body. She called it Mentor.

Under Mentor’s tutelage, Telemachus was turning into a formidable young man. When he was 15 or so, Mentor told him Odysseus had been captured and was marooned on an island and close to starving to death. The two of them immediately went to work building a sailboat to rescue Odysseus. They reached him on death’s bed. Odysseus continued to live a vigorous life under the care of Mentor and the grown-up Telemachus.


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