In 1940, the Christian minister and civil rights champion Benjamin Mays became the president of Morehouse College, the first university for African American men located in Atlanta, GA. Shortly after his tenure there began, Mays met the 15-year-old Martin Luther King, who had skipped both the nine and 12th grades to enroll as a freshman at Morehouse. King developed a close relationship with Mays and was an eager student.
Mays influenced King by his own example, guiding him toward the ministry and the preaching of a social gospel. The two men were so important in each other’s lives that they eventually made a promise – he who outlived the other would deliver the eulogy at his friend’s funeral. Sadly, on April 9, 1968, Mays saw King’s mahogany coffin delivered to Morehouse on a wobbly farm wagon pulled by mules.
Benjamin Mays and Martin Luther King are just one of many famous mentor/protégé pairs – there’s Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, and Camille Pissarro and Paul Gauguin. Due in part to the prestige of their mentors, all of these protégés went on to be extremely successful themselves. It’s a strategy that has worked time and time again: if you’re truly terrific at your work and put yourself in a position to be noticed and admired by your boss and other senior level executives, you are much more likely to land on the fast track.
The best place to start is with your immediate manager. Even though you may think she’s aware of everything you’re contributing, this is most likely not the case, especially if you work in a large organization with thousands of people, or a small organization, where every employee wears a variety of hats.
If you want to be the person your manager considers her right hand, please take my advice over at the Fast Track blog.