I couldn’t stop laughing. My 20 month old nephew was running around the living room imitating the cookie monster. A few years from now, he’ll still be imitating people, but perhaps with less excitement. Most people have role models. Most people are role models. What kind of role model do you want to be – Cookie Monster, or Oscar the Grouch?
Often role models are obvious – our bosses, our parents, our friends. Sometimes our role models are less obvious. I propose that we select our role models with more intent. Here are some basic questions to ask when selecting our role models.
- What kind of person, parent, friend, employee or leader do you want to be?
- Who in your circle does that well?
- What behaviours cause them to be successful?
- What behaviours do they avoid?
- What are their weaknesses?
Everyone has their weaknesses, including your role models. Recognizing and accepting a role model’s weaknesses is part of the process. You don’t have to be exactly like your role model.
Now to the tricky stuff – being a role model. Here is the trouble. Often, you may not realize that you are a role model. You may never even talk to that person. You may never realize the impact you have on others. We don’t usually go around thinking “I’m a role model, so I have to behave in such and such a way”. Generally, we’re not really conscious of how others see us. A few years ago, I ran into a woman who was completing her master’s degree. She introduced herself, and told me that we had met two years previously, when I was giving a talk at the university. Here’s the kicker – she then said that I was the one who inspired her to complete her MA. I didn’t even remember her. Whether I like it or not, I’m a role model.
Being a role model is really about what kind of person, leader, manager, friend, collaborator (Insert role here), that you want to be. And then constantly monitoring your approach, reflecting on your experiences and adjusting your behaviour. I suspect that no one wants to be the negative role model, yet many people end up being the toxic boss, the unreliable friend. How does that happen? Usually because they aren’t self-aware, or they aren’t taking the time to reflect on their impact on others – so they end up being “Oscar the Grouch”. So who do you want to be?