True leadership is about who you are

Role Models

The Importance Of Good Role Models In The Workplace

The power of role models in professional development lies in their ability to inspire and motivate individuals to strive for excellence and achieve their goals. Role models serve as examples of what is possible and can provide guidance and support for individuals as they work to improve their own skills and knowledge.

By observing and learning from good role models, individuals can gain valuable insights into best practices, industry trends, and effective strategies for achieving success. Role models can also serve as mentors, providing guidance and feedback to help individuals navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with professional development.

Therefore, role models can play an important role in professional development by providing guidance, inspiration, and motivation. By learning from good role models, individuals can improve their skills and knowledge, achieve their professional goals, and develop a strong sense of self. Organizations can also benefit from having good role models by promoting teamwork, cooperation and a positive work environment, as well as by helping employees to develop and advance in their careers.


5 benefits of role models in an organization

Good role models are individuals who possess positive qualities and characteristics that others can emulate and learn from. They are very important for organizations.
  1. Positive influence: Good role models can inspire and motivate others to strive for excellence and achieve their goals.
  2. Professional development: Observing and learning from good role models can help individuals develop their own skills and knowledge.
  3. Improved teamwork: Good role models can foster a positive and collaborative work environment, promoting teamwork and cooperation among colleagues.
  4. Stronger organizational culture: Good role models can help establish and reinforce the values and behaviors that are important to an organization.
  5. Improved retention: Employees who have good role models tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and are less likely to leave the organization.


What is a good role model?

In the organizations I worked for, the following characteristics were important:

  • Integrity: They are honest, trustworthy and ethical in their actions. In my blog post about Integrity at Work, I elaborate on the importance of integrity. 
  • Professionalism: They are knowledgeable, skilled and dedicated to their work.
  • Positive attitude: They have a can-do attitude and are optimistic, even in challenging situations.
  • Strong work ethic: They are hardworking and committed to achieving their goals.
  • Emotional intelligence: They are able to understand and manage their own emotions, and respond appropriately to the emotions of others.
  • Strong leadership skills: They can guide and direct others toward a common goal.
  • Good communication skills: They are able to clearly and effectively communicate with others.
  • Good decision-making skills: They are able to make well-informed and strategic decisions
  • Self-awareness: They are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and strive to improve themselves.
  • Flexibility: They can adapt to change and new situations.

Note that different organizations and people may have different ideas about what makes a good role model, depending on what qualities or traits they value or think are important.


Role Models

How can one become a good role model?

Becoming a good role model involves developing and consistently demonstrating positive qualities and behaviors. Some team members possess these qualities by nature, but if you would like to become more of a role model in your team, you could: 

  • Set a good example: Lead by example and always strive to do the right thing. Your actions will speak louder than your words.
  • Be a good listener: Listen to others, respect their opinions, and be open to feedback.
  • Be authentic: Be true to yourself and genuine in your interactions with others.
  • Take responsibility: Take ownership of your actions and be accountable for your decisions.
  • Be a good communicator: Communicate clearly and effectively, and be open to feedback.
  • Show integrity: Act with honesty and integrity at all times, and be a person of your word.
  • Be a positive influence: Encourage and support others to reach their potential.
  • Be a lifelong learner: Continuously improve your skills and knowledge, and be open to new ideas.
  • Be a good leader: Lead by example, be a good mentor, and inspire others to do their best.
  • Be humble: Recognize and acknowledge your own limitations and be open to learning from others.


Becoming a good role model is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and self-reflection. It’s important to always strive to improve and be aware of how your actions and behavior are perceived by others.


Should a good leader be a role model?

Role models and leaders in an organization can be similar in many ways, but they also have some key differences. A leader is typically someone who has formal authority and is responsible for making decisions and leading a team or group of people. A role model, on the other hand, is someone who demonstrates positive qualities and behaviors that others can emulate and learn from. While a leader may also serve as a role model, not all leaders necessarily serve as role models, and not all role models are leaders.

One of the key benefits of having good role models in leadership, however, is that they provide a clear example of what good leadership looks like.

By observing and learning from good role models, individuals can gain valuable insights into the skills, behaviors, and attributes that are associated with effective leadership. This can help individuals to develop their own leadership style and approach.


Possible downsides of having role models

While having positive role models can have numerous benefits for individuals and organizations, there are some drawbacks to consider. These are some examples:

  • High expectations: Good role models set a high standard for others to follow, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy.
  • Pressure to conform: Individuals may feel pressure to conform to the behavior and values of their role model, rather than developing their own unique strengths and style.
  • Lack of diversity: A focus on good role models can lead to a lack of diversity in leadership and decision-making, as individuals are more likely to emulate those who are similar to them.
  • Limited perspective: An over-reliance on one or a few role models can limit an individual’s perspective and prevent them from learning from a diverse range of individuals.
  • Pressure to maintain image: Good role models may feel pressure to maintain a certain image or reputation, which can be stressful and lead to burnout.
  • Risk of idolizing: Some individuals may idolize their role models, creating unrealistic expectations and overlooking any flaws or mistakes that may have been made.
  • Risk of disappointment: Good role models are human and may make mistakes or fail to meet expectations. This can lead to disappointment and a loss of trust in them. If you’d like to read more of the risk of distrust, consider reading Workplace Trust, Betrayal, and Repair: 10 characteristics of mistrust.
It’s critical to keep in mind that role models aren’t perfect and that striving for one’s own development is more vital than trying to replicate anyone else. Bearing this in mind, it is important to overcome these downsides.
Role Models

How to overcome downsides

  • Set realistic expectations: It’s important to remember that good role models are human and may make mistakes. Setting realistic expectations can help prevent feelings of inadequacy or disappointment.
  • Develop your own unique strengths and style: While it’s valuable to learn from good role models, it’s also important to develop your own unique strengths and style. Encourage individuals to find their own way, rather than trying to conform to a specific model.
  • Embrace diversity: Encourage individuals to learn from a diverse range of role models, rather than relying on just one or a few. This can broaden perspectives and improve decision-making.
  • Be aware of potential idolization: Remind individuals to be aware of the potential for idolization and to look for a balance in the role model’s qualities.
  • Encourage self-reflection: Encourage individuals to reflect on their own values, behaviors, and goals, and how they align with those of their role model.
  • Promote open communication: Encourage open communication and feedback, to ensure that any issues or concerns can be discussed and addressed.
  • Have multiple role models: Encourage people to have multiple role models with different qualities and characteristics, this way they can learn from different perspectives and have a more well-rounded understanding of the world.

How to identify good role models

Determining who would be a good role model within an organization can involve several factors. One way to identify potential role models is to look for individuals who consistently demonstrate positive qualities and behaviors, such as integrity, professionalism, a positive attitude, strong work ethic, emotional intelligence, strong leadership skills, good communication skills, good decision-making skills, self-awareness and flexibility. Another way to identify potential role models is to ask for feedback from employees and colleagues, or by conducting surveys or interviews.

Organizations can foster a culture of mentorship and role modeling by encouraging and promoting mentorship opportunities and partnerships between employees, and by recognizing and rewarding employees who take on mentorship roles. Organizations can also provide training and resources to help employees develop their mentorship skills. Additionally, organizations can create forums or events where employees can learn from and interact with role models within the company. 

You can also learn from external role models. INvolve is an organization that showcases and celebrates global business leaders who are driving change in the workplace and inspiring the next generation of diverse talent. You can find their list of role models here. 


Recommended Books

Numerous books examine the idea of role models and their effects on people and organizations.

  1. “Mentors, Masters, and Mrs. MacGregor: Stories of Teachers Making a Difference” by Robert L. Fried: This book tells the true stories of teachers who served as role models and mentors, and the impact they had on their students.
  2. “The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development” by J. Robert Clinton: This book examines the role of Christian role models and mentors in leadership development, and provides guidance for becoming an effective leader.
  3. “Role Models” by John Waters: This book is a collection of essays by the author John Waters, in which he reflects on the people who have influenced him throughout his life, and the role they have played in shaping his identity.
  4. “The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work” by Joseph Campbell: This book explores the concept of the “hero’s journey,” and the role of role models and mentors in helping individuals to find their own path and fulfill their potential.


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