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  • Writer's pictureJackie Booth

What makes a great role model?

I’ve realised over the years that there are lessons in everything, especially in failure, and however hard it feels at the time, the gains far outweigh the losses.

However there’s nothing that says you have to go it alone when you’re facing tough situations or choices. In fact it’s easier if you ask for help and support, whether that’s through a mentor at work, a private coach or using a role model as inspiration.

Looking back over my career, I realise I've had plenty of role models. One of the most significant things I learnt was they they don't have to be good at what they do to be a role model. for example, you can learn as much from someone who has poor leadership and management sills as you can for, someone who excels at it. In my experience, the "bad ones" always clarified and reassured me what not to do, and how not to be.

However, it's far better for your development (and your sanity) to discover those who are able to demonstrate positive attributes and attitudes, as their influence will ensure you are learning from someone who motivates and inspires you

We’re all familiar with the term role model and I should think, like me, you’ve probably had role models in your life since you were a child. They may be family members, peers, colleagues, teachers, people who are famous because of their lifetime achievements and legacies, or famous people you admire such as musicians and film stars.

Role models are usually those whose qualities, behaviour, and attitudes we want to imitate, whose accomplishments inspire us, and who essentially motivate us to improve ourselves in some way.

How do you translate that into your working life?

Quite simply, it’s a question of recognising the people you look up to and understanding why you admire them. You might work with someone who never forgets any detail about a project and you want to know how she does it.

Perhaps you have a colleague who is able to build great relationships with their team, partners and stakeholders and yet makes it look easy. Maybe you have a friend who takes career risks and you envy her fearlessness.

Whatever it is will be individual and unique to you. You might know what they are already, but in case you need a prompt, I’m going to look at a few qualities I’ve always considered essential.

Your list might look different, but I hope that these if nothing else, provide sufficient prompts for you to get you thinking about what you might want to look for in a role model.

1. Optimism and positivity

I’m a glass half-full person and I find it draining to be around the ‘negative-nellies’ whose attitude is that they don’t even have a glass, never mind one that might be half empty.

For me, a great role model is one who can see opportunities in everything, are solution focused and are willing to try (and fail) rather than give up when there is a chance of success.

Additionally, someone who is positive and optimistic is also likely to have confidence. Working with someone who has a can-do attitude, healthy self-belief and strives for better things is not only inspiring but their energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.

2. Respect and compassion

These are biggies for me as they are high on my list of personal core values. I’m repelled by people who are rude or disrespectful to others, who eschew showing gratitude or appreciation for another’s participation or contribution, who are unkind and arrogant and step over others to get ahead.

So naturally, I admire the opposite traits in people and would be looking for them to be present in a role model. Particularly as 80% of the success in any role is based on your ability to deal with people; both inside your team as well as your external stakeholders and customers.

Everybody is different and has their own things to offer and ways of working, and a role model who isn’t cognisant of these things wouldn’t be my ideal.

Role models who demonstrate selflessness, kindness and a non-judgemental attitude will easily earn the admiration of others.

3. Accountability and commitment

For me, these are about doing what you say you’re going to do, accepting responsibility and being accountable when things don’t work as planned. We all make mistakes and the best demonstration of leadership as a role model is the acknowledgement and correction of the error.

I’ve worked with people who have denied or hidden their failures which bothers me far more than the original slip-up. I don’t care if you’ve made a mistake, but I do care if you lie about it, or even worse, try and blame someone else.

Therefore, when it comes to what you want in a role model, think about the people you’ve worked with who have taken responsibility and shown integrity and honesty.

4. Integrity and honesty

Carrying on from my last points, these are also important qualities to note down.

Integrity for most of us usually means doing the right thing for the right reasons; usually because it benefits someone else, either directly or indirectly. And especially when taking the easy way out would be far simpler and a lot less hassle.

What comes next?

I hope these ideas have helped you think about what you look for in a role model, or the qualities and behaviours you’d want others to admire in you.

If you’d like more support for your career or if you’re at a crossroads deciding what to do next, then I’d love to help you.

Get in touch and book a free 30 minute Clarity Call with me. We can find out what might be holding you back and what you can do to take action today.

And if you'd like to share your thoughts please comment below.

Jackie x

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