Home Concepts Adult Development Generativity Two: The Existing Concepts

Generativity Two: The Existing Concepts

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In expanding her sphere of influence (and caring) in her community, Sally also provides mentoring inside organizations.

I became involved about a decade ago when my husband and I moved here with an organization serving at-risk girls. I played a role in mentoring the young executive director (who is still the ED) to become skilled in meeting the various challenges of the organization. Given my professional background, she first tapped me to head the organization’s marketing committee. Then, after I became board president, we obtained critical help from a six-month leadership seminar that the umbrella nonprofit organization sponsored for non-profit ED’s and Board Presidents; this was the beginning of my really helping our ED to develop the leadership skills that she needed, and she helped me understand how to work with ED’s in the nonprofit world.

We see generativity also exemplified in the willingness (even eagerness) of Sally to expand her mentoring experience — in this instance by working with a different kind of non-profit organization:

The non-profit arts organization [I serve] has been an entirely different experience. This organization had been in operation for a number of years, but it wasn’t until we hired a new ED that it really took off in terms of the quality of performances and audience growth. I have been board president for three years now and have had the continuing challenge of encouraging and helping this extraordinarily creative and productive executive director understand that she needs to learn how to listen to her board members and benefit from their counsel. This trying experience has been like taking a brilliant diamond in the rough and trying to polish it.

Involved but Not Embedded

There is one other important insight to be gained from the narrative offered by Sally, which is reinforced in many of the articles about generativity. The mentor is not expected to take over the work of the person she is mentoring. Nor is she to be the formal supervisor of this person. Mentoring works best when there is no formal power relationship between the mentor and mentee and when the work and responsibility remain in the mentee’s hands (the “monkey” of responsibility does not leap onto the mentor’s shoulder from the mentee’s):

The main thing that I conclude about my mentoring is that I am done with wanting to lead nonprofit organizations. To be part of important projects, yes. But I no longer care to be in a . . . leadership role. What I most care about are my personal relationships and the value that they add to my life. These relationships are my life-line.

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One Comment

  1. Rey Carr

    June 21, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    This is a most important essay. I’ve always thought that Erikson’s identification and explanation of this stage received too little attention. And maybe that’s part of the dilemma; younger researchers theorists weren’t in this stage and just thought of it as an abstract concept? At the same time generativity became much more important to me as I got older. Your essay is brilliant and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.


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