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Who mentored who?

who mentored who

We see the end product of success; the refined version of a person who had a long journey to their destination.  But we often fail to understand that these people weren’t born like this – and had a number of helping hands along the way which helped push and pull them to success.

Almost all successful people pay homage to their families, their friends – but also to their mentors. So in the interest of showing that success doesn’t come easy, nor does it come from the individual alone – here are some famous mentors, some famous mentees, and their famous-ish mentorships.  

There are some serious power mentorships in this crew.


Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg

This was a dynamic duo if ever there has been one. One of the great creative minds of our time, Steve Jobs, mentored a young Mark Zuckerburg who quickly found the need for experienced based insight and advice following and during Facebook’s insatiable growth. Zuckerburg had some words for his mentor upon passing in 2011:

“Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”

Barbara Walters mentored Oprah Winfrey

Oprah was mentored by the famous Barbara Walters, who clearly had an impact on her career:

“Had there not been you, there never would have been me,” Oprah once told Barbara Walters during an interview.

Larry Summers mentored Sheryl Sandberg

One of the greatest economics minds on the planet, Larry Summers, shared his advice and insight with one of the greatest operational minds of today – Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg – who has consistently called Summer’s her most important mentor.

Warren Buffet mentored Bill Gates

The investor mastermind Warren Buffet has been a mentor and friend to Bill Gates for many years – and with great success – amassing a combined wealth of over $100 billion.

Gates admits that over the years he has turned to Buffett for advice on various subjects, and has often referred to Buffett as “one of a kind.”

Sir Freddie Laker mentored Richard Branson

The famous Virgin founder and billionaire knew early on that he didn’t want to go it alone, and asked Sir Freddie for some mentorship:

“It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”

Benjamin E. Mays mentored Dr. Martin Luther King

One of the most influential people in American civil rights history, Dr. Martin Luther King, was mentored by another American civil rights icon – Benjamin E. Mays.

Combined and because of one another, they made some incredible progress.

Lebron James mentored J.R Smith

In a perfect example of peer mentorship at its finest, NBA superstar mentors his teammate and champion J.R Smith.

Jerry Lewis mentored Stephen Spielberg who mentored J.J. Abrams

Those in the arts seem just as keen to engage with great mentors; world-renowned director Stephen Spielberg counts Jerry Lewis as a mentor, saying:

“He taught me the importance of mentoring.”

This experience of mentoring clearly rubbed off on Spielberg, as he is now paying it forward by mentoring J.J. Abrams, another world-class director.


It’s important to note that mentorships come in all shapes and sizes – and that great mentorships are not premised on the fact that the mentors needs to be rich, famous, or even successful.

But it is inspiring to see and know that even the greats had a helping hand – often from some of the other greats.

Want to see more?

Here is a more exhaustive list of the greatest mentorships/mentoring pairings in history.

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