You probably already heard about role models. Even if you haven’t, you probably have or had at least one role model, maybe more. If not, here are a few reasons you should have some if you are ambitious in your career.
The benefits of a role model
To increase your self-confidence
No man ever ran a marathon under 2 hours before Eliud Kipchoge in 2019. Although that race did not count as a world record because of the conditions, this was undoubtedly an important milestone. Indeed, many professional runners will tell themselves that it is possible, giving them the motivation to do better and, this time, set an approved record. It happened with the famous 10-second barrier in the 100 meters sprint.
Similarly, seeing your role model achieving something can help you try to replicate the same thing your way. If they can do it, why not you? Provided that your role model has no significant advantage over you, it is just a question of motivation and self-confidence. And everybody can afford self-confidence.
To have a benchmark
While working hard to meet your goals, you may want to know whether you are on track or not to achieve them all. So, of course, you will need to compare your status with those in similar situations. Typically, your role model will serve as a benchmark to determine your actions. But it can be more than that.
Consider this: you witnessed your manager handling a conflict poorly in the past. Now you are a manager and have to manage a similar dispute. Wouldn’t you be happy to know, at this exact moment, what not to do to deal with this situation, thanks to your former manager? Even though you still have no idea what to do to get better results, you can choose between fewer options, having dismissed those that proved terrible.
To meet ambitious objectives
This depends, of course, on who is your role model. But the truth is, the higher you aim, the higher your objectives will be. Think of your goals as the steps you need to achieve to reach your final destination. So you will ensure your objectives are smart (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound). For that, you may have to divide them into other sub-objectives.
But ultimately, the simple fact that you achieve all these goals and sub-goals will bring you to a point you would probably have not reached if it was not for the person you admire. Just trying to do something like your role model can take you to unsuspected heights, even though these were not what you initially expected. As the saying goes,
To get inspiration
A role model is often a person you think, “I want to be like that person.” And while working your way towards your objective, you will undoubtedly have some ups and downs. You will need inspiration the most when you are at the wrong time. Having an image of your role model in these moments, thinking that they probably went through the same troubles, only to reach the summit later, is something you will need to get up and keep going.
To see the bigger picture
In entrepreneurship, a vision is a big picture of what you want to achieve. Therefore, it is indispensable when you run a business, as it helps you define your mission and objectives. Not that you will fail if you don’t have a vision, but you have a higher chance to be present in the long term with a vision.
That is pretty much the same with a career: you have higher chances of reaching your dream job if you have a dream job. Otherwise, you are simply navigating on sight from one job to another without knowing exactly where you want to go. That is the best way to land a job you will find tedious, exhausting, or frustrating.
But of course, to set a destination, you must know about it first, which is where role models make sense. Suppose you pick a role model who is basically what you want to become in your vision. In that case, it is easy to study their background, see what you can mimic, what you can improve, and what you should avoid doing to achieve success.
Not everyone can create a coherent link between a vision and objectives, which is why seeing different role models can help you to define the appropriate goals. Indeed, when you are told more or less the same story multiple times in different ways by different people, it’s easy to see the pattern between all these stories. And this pattern can lead you to your bigger picture.
The different types of role model
Knowing what you should seek when picking a role model would be interesting. There are not so many; in fact, there are three different types:
- the positive example
- the negative example
- the reverse example
The positive example
The positive example of a role model is the one most people refer to when talking about role models. Whether it be the achievements or the way to do things, pretty much everything the positive role model does is a template to emulate. Typically, you would want to have more than one positive role model to maximize your chances of success. Even Michael Jordan, today a role model for many people, had his role model, David Thompson.
The exemplary role model should, however, meet these two conditions to do its role of pushing you to do better:
- It should be someone better than you. The idea is to be better, so you would want to take someone better than you to be better yourself. It also means you must be able to define how successful this person is, to set a target for yourself.
- It should be someone with similar values to yours. Indeed, you want to be comfortable emulating your role model, so if yours is doing things you would never do, there is no point. At least you should be able to identify with this person in the most critical aspects. That can be a similar educational or professional background, the same desire to help people, a similar handicap…
The negative example
If there is good, there is also bad. The negative role model is the model you should stay away from. Just like when you were a kid, your parents may have told you, “Don’t do this; otherwise, you’ll become like …” with the name of the wrong role model.
However, the bad example is still good for your career. Just like the positive example shows you what you could get if you are working hard to meet your goals, the bad example tells you how bad you may end up not doing enough. It is then up to you to stay away as much as possible from that path and get closer to the good one.
The reverse example
Finally, we have the reverse role model. This one is particular: it looks like a good role model, but it is also one you don’t want to emulate because you cannot identify with it in some aspects. A simple example is someone who moves up through the hierarchy of a company or organization through nepotism. Even though this person may be talented, it’s not the kind of positive role model you should choose.
If you do not have a role model, I strongly advise you to pick at least one. But preferably, select many different types. You can’t have too many role models, so take advantage of it; it can only be good for your career. And last but not least, your role model could be anyone, literally: it can be a celebrity, a person senior to you, a colleague, or even a fictional character. Before choosing your role model, you should learn to know yourself and define your attitudes and values.