Leadership

Why you should find a great mentor if you want to be successful

Michael Sonnenfeldt, founder, CEO and Chairman, Tiger 21.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Michael Sonnenfeldt, founder, CEO and Chairman, Tiger 21.

Whether you're starting a business or overseeing a team within a company, having a mentor can prove useful in helping you reach the next level of success.

"The hidden secret for young entrepreneurs is seeking out great mentors," says Michael Sonnenfeldt CEO of Tiger 21, a social networking site for the wealthiest entrepreneurs. "You can learn lessons from their careers."

Sonnenfeldt tells CNBC Make It that a mentor can help you answer some tough questions, especially if you want to become an entrepreneur. "First, ask if you have a good idea. Then ask if you have the emotional constitution to be an entrepreneur because being successful is much riskier than you think," he says.

Mentors can take on a variety of roles depending on your needs. Sonnenfeldt breaks them down into five distinct groups in his book "Think Bigger: And 39 Other Winning Strategies from Successful Entrepreneurs."

First is the "wise veteran" who is willing to give a young person the benefit of his or her experience and knowledge. Next is the "eager teacher" who is willing to pass on specific skills to newcomers.

The "generous peer" helps colleagues and friends learn skills and network with his or her business contacts. The "life coach" advises others on personal goals and career opportunities.

Finally, the "good listener" is simply there to bounce ideas and explore solutions for a challenging problem.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have had mentors or been mentees. For example, the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs, served as a mentor to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg during the early years of the company.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Getty Images
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook was going through a "rough patch" and people wanted to buy the company, Zuckerberg says in a town hall Q&A according to Business Insider.

"I went and I met with Steve Jobs," says Zuckerberg, "and he said that to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company, I should go visit this temple in India that he had gone to early in the evolution of Apple, when he was thinking about what he wanted his vision of the future to be."

After Jobs' passing, Zuckerberg thanked him for his mentorship. In a Facebook post, the social media mogul says. "Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you."

Though most of us probably won't have someone like Steve Jobs as a mentor, you can still find a quality mentor by simply asking and showing ambition, says Sonnenfeldt. "You are never too smart or too old for a mentor," he says.

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