Mentor, Coach, Advisor or Consigliere?

There is much talk these days about finding assistance in identifying and achieving goals, whether organizationally or personal (and if you are the leader they are inseparable). Here are my thoughts on the what and why for leaders.

A mentor is someone who has already achieved something you want to emulate or replicate yourself. You seek a mentor for wisdom and experience. Someone who is not, or has not been there, will be unproductive as a mentor.

A coach is someone who helps you develop and execute your plan. Many coaches have undergone training in the best practices and techniques in coaching, and carry professional certifications.   You seek a coach for clarity alignment and accountability. Someone who doesn’t listen to or help you organize your thoughts in favor of advice, will be a weak coach.

An advisor is someone who has a functional or technical expertise, such as manufacturing, retail or distribution.   You seek an advisor when you need an expert to help solve a specific problem. Someone who lacks the specific expertise for your problem will not be helpful as an advisor.

Is it important to differentiate these roles? Only because as you work with someone it is key to remember these are roles and not people. A person hired for one role, say as a coach, may also qualify as a mentor or advisor for you within their area of expertise. It is also important for both of you to be aware when that person is being asked to serve beyond their training.

As for me, I find the leaders I work with are primarily seeking a consigliere, a counselor. Someone who is loyal and trustworthy. Someone confidential and discreet. Someone who listens and seeks to understand. Someone who speaks objective truth without judgment.

I know it is lonely at the top.


“If I had a wartime consigliere, a Sicilian, I wouldn’t be in this shape!”

– Sonny Corleone 

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