Why do mentors mentor?

McCarthy Mentoring asked Richard Spencer, Director, Social Ventures Australia his thoughts on the value of mentoring, what he most enjoys about the experience and some of the common issues he is asked by mentees.


Value of mentoring?: One of the key challenges for leaders today is finding the time to step aside from the daily pressures and flurry of activity to reflect on the deeper issues confronting their organisations. It is often about the strategic direction of the organisation but increasingly their role as leaders in a rapidly changing environment.  Mentoring provides a wonderful opportunity to explore those challenges with a trusted experienced confidant.  It’s a conversation that can’t happen in the organisation – doubts, uncertainties and crazy ideas can all be explored to sift and sort options and possibilities.

Most enjoy? It’s enormously inspiring to see the quality of leadership In Australia and to work with talented committed individuals who continually strive to improve the impact of their organisations.  They have different strengths but share a willingness to explore new thinking and ideas.  The trust that develops opens up space for honest open debate about opportunities and challenges.  You never quite know where it will go but it often leads to fascinating insights and “aha” moments.

Most common issues asked? It’s fashionable to talk about “Disruptive technology” today but it’s real.  Thoughtful farsighted leaders know it and understand that current business models will need to be flexible and quickly adapt to a vastly different environment.  But ultimately this challenge is about people in the organisation – will they embrace these changes?  Leaders have a crucial role to play in creating a mindset of opportunity rather than a fear or defensiveness to change.


Richard has spent over 20 years as a Chief Executive in the not-for-profit sector. Most recently he was CEO of The Benevolent Society, Australia’s oldest charity founded in 1813.  Previous roles included CEO of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and CEO of AFS Intercultural Programs in New York. He served as Executive Director of UNICEF Australia (United Nations Children’s Fund) in the late 1980s. Prior to that he worked as a corporate lawyer for Clayton Utz in Sydney and as a senior manager with Rio Tinto in London.  He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Sydney University and a Masters degree in Professional Ethics from the University of New South Wales. Richard is currently a director of Social Ventures Australia and China Committee for Intercultural Education as well as Chair of Bonnyrigg Management.  He was recently a member of the Board of the NSW Commission of Audit and served on the Boards of the Community Council for Australia and GoodStart Early Learning.

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Newsletter: Autumn edition

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McCarthy Mentoring’s latest newsletter edition is here. Read about:

  • the mentoring experience of Qantas Captain Georgina Sutton with her mentor, Wendy McCarthy AO
  • the Top Ten Tips for Mentees
  • why your CEO needs a mentor
  • lessons of leadership and resilience from Wing Commander Lee de Winton
  • why Dry July Founder won our scholarship
  • mentoring for philanthropy leaders across Australia
  • the latest leadership must reads

Download the 2014 Autumn Newsletter here

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Autumn 2013

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 This Autumn issue of the newsletter includes:

  • an interview with Liz Cacciottolo, mentor and UBS Senior Advisor and Eva Hanley, Principal at Evans & Peck
  • tips on managing difficult situations at work
  • how ASX-listed EDL sought executive mentoring during time of change
  • launch of the 2013 Women@Qantas Mentoring Program
  • recommended business books, articles and more.

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Summer 2012

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Winter 2012

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