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Leaders We’re Watching: Mary Schlegel and Nigel Dias

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This month, we bring you insights from two leaders to keep an eye on – Mary Schlegel, a former Learning and Development Manager at a Fortune 500 company and current consultant, and Nigel Dias, managing director of 3n Strategy. 

Read on to learn why Schlegel thinks everyone should get a reverse mentor, and why Dias is encouraging all leaders to take a data-driven approach to leadership development.

Q: You’re a proponent that “everyone could use a reverse mentor,” in other words, someone who might be younger or more junior and wouldn’t normally be in the position of “expert.” Why do you say that?

Schlegel: It’s an opportunity to build the skill sets of existing leaders while giving future leaders valuable development and exposure. According to the World Economic Forum, 85 million jobs that existed in 2020 will cease to exist in 2025. In the same time period, 97 million new jobs will be created. The WEF research also says that for workers who are going to remain in their roles for the next five years, nearly 50 percent will need to be reskilled. 


It’s time for leaders to learn not just from the people who’ve come before them, but from those leading alongside and after them. 


If you want to seek reverse mentorship, one of my favorite starting points is a network diversity analysis. This means writing down the names of the people who you consider and consult whenever you’re making a big decision, whether it’s personal or professional. 


Then reflect:

  • How similar is my network to me? In which ways? 
  • How many share my gender identity, race, education level, etc.? 
  • How does the makeup of this network impact the way that I see the world, the way I see what’s fair? 
  • Where are the greatest opportunities for expanding my perspective?

Before you reach out to anyone to be your reverse mentor, commit to something you’ll do to develop yourself in the area where you’d like to grow – don’t outsource the learning!

Q: Why do you encourage companies to take a data-driven approach to making decisions about who to select for leadership development opportunities?

Dias: The impact of not taking a data-driven approach to leadership development is the same as traveling to work without a travel app. Yes, you will still be on the same journey, and you might take the right route, and you might dodge the traffic based on intuition alone. But how much more likely would it be that you would arrive safely–or make the trip faster–if you had facts to supplement your existing knowledge?


By not taking a data-driven approach, you disadvantage yourself, and miss out on the opportunity to make a better choice and ultimately to be more successful.


Data and analytics are evidence to help the decision-maker make a better choice – but they still need to make the decision. When it comes to making the best decisions possible about leadership development, we encourage our customers to stop thinking about what they do, and to reflect on why they decided to do it that way. If they can first recognize that they are making a decision and then think about the questions they would like to know the answer to, then they can use data to help answer those questions and make a more informed choice. This increases the chance that they’ll drive better outcomes for themselves, for employees’ experiences, and for the company overall.

This article was featured in Torch’s newsletter, Curiouser. Each month, we deliver the latest research, stories, questions, and insights about the art and science of coaching to your inbox. Sign-up and join a community of people who are passionate about growth, learning, and leadership.