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The Role of Role Models

by Dr. Vesna Grubacevic


Who did you want to be like when you grew up?  Did you have a role model who you wished you were like?  Would you like to understand the role your role models may have played in your personal and professional relationships, and your success?

Model Me

As we are growing up, we are influenced by many factors, including our role models.  There are certain people we admire, we want to be like or we aspire to be.  Generally, we choose our role models in the modelling period of our life (between age 7 and 14 years), and often these choices can be unconscious ones.  As you think about that period of your life, you may recall a favourite singer, band, actor/actress, relative, friend, etc. you had as a role model.  You may even have dressed up as your favourite super hero, etc.

Here are some examples of possible role models:

  • Mum, dad
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Other relatives
  • Family friends
  • School friends
  • Teachers
  • Super heros
  • Actors/actresses
  • Singers, bands
  • Sports heros
  • Other celebrities
  • Cartoon characters
  • etc.

Relationship Role Models

As you consider the above possible role models, on whom did you model your personal and professional relationships?  Consider the following examples:

Person A used to love watching the Lone Ranger on television.  You may remember the Lone Ranger was a loner and only had a sidekick to help him out from time to time.  Person A unconsciously chose the Lone Ranger as a role model at a young age and spent his whole life alone with only one or two close friends he would occasionally see.  Decades later, person A was wondering why he was still alone without a relationship, and only ever had jobs with only one helper (and never a bigger team).

Person B admired a family friend that would often visit.  She loved the way this family friend was a successful business woman and had everything she wanted – she travelled, made lots of money, had a fabulous lifestyle, etc.  At a young age, person B wanted to be like this family friend.  What person B only realised later in life was that by modelling this family friend she unconsciously modelled her relationships also (which were unsuccessful).  Person B grew up as a highly successful business woman, yet without a successful relationship.

Often when we role model others, we can unconsciously role model several of their behaviours, some of which may disempower us later in life.

Assess Your Role Models

Before you make any changes to your role models and relationships, think about and honestly answer the following questions:

  • Who were your main role models around a relationship with a partner?
  • Who were your main role models around relationships with peers, colleagues and the manager?
  • What did you admire about those role models?
  • What example did they set for personal relationships?
  • What example did they set for professional relationships?
  • Have those role models served you well to create the personal and professional relationships you would like to have now?
  • If not, what about them is not setting a good example for the relationships you want?
  • Which role model would you prefer to have instead who is a good example for you and the success you desire?

Here is an example of a positive role model.  Miranda Tapsell recently won the Silver Logie for Most Popular New Talent (Love Child, Nine Network) and the Graham Kennedy award for Most Outstanding New Talent.  Miranda inspired during her acceptance speech by calling for greater diversity on Australian TV, and also quoted her role model in Hollywood, Viola Davis, in saying ‘dream big, dream fierce’.  Viola Davis has won over 10 awards in Hollywood, and has been nominated for over 20 awards including at the 2015 Golden Globe awards.  As a multi-award winner, Miranda is already following in her role model’s steps. I am honoured that such inspiring role models have both received a copy of my book.

Be mindful of the importance of role models and how they may be impacting on your current personal and professional relationships.  Then if you discover that your role models are not serving you, you can change these.

Are You a Good Role Model?

Just like you have chosen your role models, other people around you may look to you as a role model.  This is especially true of younger children who look to their elders for guidance in relationships, career and life.  This is also true of colleagues and peers who look to more experienced colleagues or their manager for leadership and guidance in the workplace.

If you would like to set a good example and be a good role model for your children, colleagues, team, friends, family or society, take a close look at your behaviour now to ensure that you are walking your talk, and setting the example you wish to set:

  • Which of your behaviours are you unhappy with and wish you could change?
  • How could your behaviour be more consistent with what you preach or what you expect of others?
  • Are your own insecurities affecting your success and, therefore, the example you can set for others?

Remember you can always change any unwanted behaviours so that you can be the role model that inspires others to shine!

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