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The role of a role model


By Georgie Procter

Like the rest of the world, I’ve watched Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, step into the role of international role model. In a recent article by Dr Christian Harrison, Reader of Leadership at the University of the West of Scotland, he emphasised how rare it is for a leader to become a global centre-point of inspiration. Dr Harrison states: It is clear that this actor-turned-politician has been cast in the role of his life”.

This notion of the ‘role’ we take in life has got me thinking. Zelenskyy’s conduct in the face of Russia’s unjust invasion is inspiring, but how has he turned being a solid politician (there are, after all, quite a few of these) into being a role model for people around the world? Is it his specific character, tips he’s picked up from his own mentors and motivators, or are some people just born to be role models?

When looking at the role models in my life - many being my colleagues, our CEO Emma Kane, my dad, my cousin, even many of my friends – I often wonder, why exactly do I consider these people role models?

A 2015 study declared, “[the] power of role models can be harnessed to increase role aspirants’ motivation, reinforce their existing goals, and facilitate their adoption of new goals”. This is something I believe all those named above do, daily. Especially my seniors at work: their experience in the workplace and life seems to increase my motivation and underline what is actually achievable. Emma Raducanu, our homegrown, overnight tennis sensation, fired her coach after her first major championship win at the US Open as she wanted someone with more “professional tour experience”. Emma’s actions denote how seniors become role models by guiding and passing down learnings from their own career paths.

The idea that a role model should also facilitate an aspirant’s adoption of new goals, again, is definitely something I feel my role models do for me. Their compassion, empathy and confidence in me and others is what gives us the confidence to adopt new personal goals. Dr Harrison highlighted in his piece on Zelenskyy: “effective leaders understand the feelings, motives and emotions of others”, instilling confidence and pushing us to go for gold. Or, in the words of my father, “go on girl – back yourself”.

To me, it seems like we can all be role models. Maxine Benson MBE and co-founder of everywoman recently wrote, “reflect on people you’ve come across in other areas of your life, role models can be found anywhere and are often found in an unlikely place”. We can all play a positive role in someone’s life by promoting our colleagues and encouraging our friends -  something we should all be doing every day.