Between the lines: The force should always be with mentors

Simon Allison, head of employment at Blackadders solicitors

Simon Allison, head of employment at Blackadders solicitors

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Given the ongoing public interest in Star Wars – the latest version of which has been filling cinema seats around the country – many of us already know the story.

Jedi Master (Obi-Wan Kenobi) agrees to mentor Padawan apprentice (Anakin Skywalker) whilst training him to be a Jedi Knight. The apprentice, or mentee, is seduced by the Dark Side.

Simon Allison doesn't rate the mentoring skills of Obi-Wan Kenobi, played here by Ewan McGregor. Picture: AP Photo/Lucasfilm, ILM

Simon Allison doesn't rate the mentoring skills of Obi-Wan Kenobi, played here by Ewan McGregor. Picture: AP Photo/Lucasfilm, ILM

Mentee decides that he wants to rule the Galaxy. Mentee takes on mentor in winner-takes-all light sabre battle. Mentor emerges the victor, leaving his mentee to die.

Mentee later decides that he still wants to rule galaxy, but that’s a whole different set of films.

READ MORE: Four Scots who helped shape the Star Wars universe

Most blame Supreme Chancellor Palpatine for Anakin’s lure to the Dark Side. Personally, I blame Obi-Wan. He was a truly terrible mentor. And here are five reasons why.

Lack of integrity: Throughout his training, Obi-Wan labours the merits and integrity of the Jedi to his eager mentee. Jedis never give in to feelings of anger or fear nor tell lies… blah, blah, blah. However, during the course of this mentorship, Obi-Wan instructs his mentee to spy on the Supreme Chancellor on behalf of the Jedi Council. Did this instruction demonstrate integrity? A mentor should demonstrate integrity at all times to a mentee and Obi-Wan failed in this respect.

Lack of challenge: The role of mentor involves a degree of objective scrutiny. A mentor should be able to constructively challenge his mentee about any issues which are discussed between them. Obi-Wan fails on each occasion to do this. A mentor requires to listen, guide and, where appropriate, criticise constructively.

Dishonesty: Acting as a mentor involves complete honesty, with the occasional degree of diplomacy. However, even when Obi-Wan gets a second chance at mentoring Luke Skywalker, he fails to disclose various essential truths. Yes, he tells Luke how evil Vader was, that Vader “betrayed and murdered” his father. However, he fails to get round to telling Luke that Vader is his actual father! There should be 100 per cent trust and honesty between a mentor and mentee.

Hypocritical: A mentor requires to be admirable and accessible, qualities Obi-Wan completely lacks. Do we remember him telling Anakin that, at the age of nine, he was too old to begin Jedi training? Why then does Obi-Wan wait for 19 years before commencing Luke’s training? What a hypocrite. As a mentor, the door should always have been open to the mentee.

Uninspiring: Let’s face it. Obi-Wan’s style of mentoring involves lecturing and patronising his mentee. Moulding does not mean scolding. Instead of lecturing him on his arrogance or recording the frequent incidents of insubordination in his calendar, he should have perhaps spent some quality time with him. A mentor and mentee should aim to do fun things together, as well as the more serious side of the mentoring.

Employers who encourage a mentoring programme in the workplace should ensure that this is worthwhile and will pay dividends.

All too often, an employer will set up a mentoring arrangement and then fail to give too much attention to the benefits (or not) of it. Such a scheme should be of benefit to both the mentee and the employer. In the words of Yoda, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

So if involved in a mentor scheme, you would be wise to remember what happened a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, with particular reference to Obi Wan’s failings as a mentor.

In fact, forget about Obi-Wan, Anakin and Skywalker. As a mentor, why not style yourself on Han Solo instead? (Or, if you’ve seen the latest film, Han YOLO).

• Simon Allison is head of employment at Blackadders

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