Role Models

Remembering back to school days…were you ever asked these questions: Who is your role model? Who do you want to be like when you grow up?

Have you asked yourself those questions recently?
Despite what many might think, we need and have role models as adults.

So, who are these people and how do they differ from child to adult?
First of all, let’s step back and look at the definition of a role model. One dictionary states: a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated. Another dictionary says a role model is a person someone admires and tries to copy. Being a role model is a tall order. Role models influence change and decisions in peoples’ lives.

Role models can generally fit into one of two categories: celebrity or community. Celebrity role models are usually movie and TV stars, athletes, and musical artists. Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, friends, and mentors fit into the community category. These are the day to day people that speak into and affect a person’s life. Can you think of some of your celebrity and community role models?

Role models can positively and negatively influence people. Negative role models are those who do not uphold ethical or moral values. Typically in the social media of today we hear of those negative role models. They get the attention because of their aggressive, abusive, or manipulative behaviors. With this exposure in the media it’s possible for others to lose their own moral compass. Seeing example after example in the news, on the internet, and in the work place can cause a person to act out in similar ways wanting to get what they want. This process of learning from negative role models is called vicarious reinforcement. When a person sees a role model getting rewarded for unethical behaviors they may be encouraged to try the same. When an employee sees a boss misleading a client into a shady deal and reaping benefits, this may affect his own approach to dealing with clients in the future. Positive role models are often kept under the radar. They hold values and practice ethical behaviors. Positive role models are those who have affected a person in a way that makes him/her want to be a better person.

How does one become an ethical role model and leader?
One way is through experiences as a child. Children are constantly learning, growing, and taking it all in. With positive role models in their life, as an adult they have a greater likelihood of being an ethical leader themselves. Another way is through mentors. Whether in the community or in the workplace a mentor who takes another under his wing guiding and encouraging him. This is vicarious learning; learning through another’s example. No matter child or adult we all are among role models each and every day, some good and some not so good.

Ask yourself these questions: who are my role models? Are they influencing me in positive or negative ways? Now take it a step further: who am I a role model to? Am I affecting them in positive or negative ways? Not only are you influenced, you are an influencer!

“I have to tell you, I’m proudest of my life off the court. There will always be great basketball players who bounce that little round ball, but my proudest moments are affecting people’s lives, effecting change, being a role model in the community.”
–Magic Johnson