The role of role models

While discussing the challenges associated with skilling women in various trades (as part of strategic CSR), what came out was the high rate of women who never later pursued the skills taught. That is, many either went back to doing what it was that they were doing earlier (majorly household work) or just expressed a reluctance to travel to do a job.

We brainstormed on various options and/or incentives that could motivate the women to stay on the path of pursuing a new career. One of the options that emerged was that of having these women interact with those who have traversed the same path as them and have now carved out a professional path for themselves. A.K.A. role models.

The many types of role models

While exploring the above, I asked myself – who is a role model? Many of us define role models as someone who inspires and motivates us. At a young age, parents are most likely to be role models for their children. They foundation for values and principles is set at this stage. And children pick those up from what and how it is ingrained in them.

As one grows, role models take on various shapes – teachers play an influential role in shaping our thoughts and even politicians and cinema stars are role models for many.

People gravitate towards those who have faced challenges in life and bounced back. For example, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi rank very high as role models. MBA students are fascinated by the life and story of Steve Jobs, the founder of APPLE and often look up to him with admiration and awe. And then of course, we have role models whose character is worth emulating. MS Dhoni, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, APJ Kalam, and many others fit in here.

A role model is then like a long-distance pen friend coach whom you admire but may never get to meet ever in real life. But the life of this coach pushes you to do better and guides you towards setting your own professional goals.

Who is your role model?

When you think of a role model in your job, whose image or name comes up for you? The obvious answer is the CEO. But often, the CEO is a distant blob on the screen, sitting in some other country and/or not accessible to many of the employees. What does one do then? Whom should an employee look up to?

Here is the trick – you need not have one role model! You can enrich your life with having many role models to look up to for different aspects.

When it comes to decision making whom do you look up to within your organisation? Don’t be surprised if the answer is not your manager or your CEO but the functional head of another unit!

May be your team member is better at articulating pitches. Have you never looked up to her/him for guidance and understanding and at times also look at wonder as how skillfully s/he is at that task? There is your role model!

In case of integrity and high set of values, your role model could be someone totally unconnected with your current role. I have come across young professionals who swear by the governance structure of their organisation and admire the CFO to sticking to ethics and integrity. The CFO is easily their choice of a role model here.

Finding the right one

A word of caution – role models can fall off their pedestal too. Or they can have a negative influence. Hence, you need to choose your role model with care. Find one that teaches you to never give up and build your resilience in your job. Look out for someone who if focused on creating difference in other’s life. Or the one who can help you find your own self and identify your strengths.

Broaden your search and find multiple role models whose support, guidance, courageous stories, and values can enhance you professionally.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

Be the first to comment on "The role of role models"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.