Role Models and Leadership

by Wiz

in Lessons,Podcasts

One topic that always seems to come up in discussions involving leadership is the idea of having a role model.  People that I talk with generally think role models are important, especially for children growing up and trying to make sense of the world. 

The general concern, it seems, is finding the “right” role model.  Many of my friends who are parents tell me the appeal of celebrities, professional athletes and other people in the public eye makes it easy for young adults (and older ones, too) to want to “be like them”.  Unfortunately, public images can be very shallow, and easily susceptible to being shattered.  And when they do shatter, it’s often in a big way, which can leave young adults disillusioned and cynical.

Most leaders I talk with have one or two people they would consider a role model.  I’ve heard personal development expert Bob Proctor remark that he holds Napoleon Bonaparte, the French general and emperor, as an example both of what to be like and what not to be like.  A number of my military friends look to leaders like General Robert E. Lee (US Civil War) and US President Abraham Lincoln for inspiration. 

So when I was talking with a friend of mine recently – a lady who has been in leadership positions pretty much her entire adult life – I asked about her role models.  And I was completely unprepared for her answer!   (4:34)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Karen Zapp November 19, 2007 at 2:20 pm

I think we need to take ALL the information – the good and the bad – and then make the decision. Doing less results in a skewed decision which MIGHT turn out okay, or more likely the result will be less than it could have been. And as leaders we must be willing to face that bad news and deal with it correctly.

This reminds me of something I encountered many years ago, early in my working career (actually occurred in my “first” career).

Basically I found myself in a situation where one of the executives of the company I worked for reprimanded me for failing to hide/cover-up an error I discovered. We were joint venture partners with another company on an oil and gas well. While visiting their offices I was looking over some records. I was just starting to realize they had failed to charge us our fair share of the expenses to the tune of about $1 million when one of the folks from the other company came into the room. He asked how it was going and did I find what I was looking for. Well, he also came over and looked at the records I had and then we both realized at the same time what exactly had happened. There was no doubt; they had overlooked charging us for a significant portion of the cost.

I was stunned and shocked when I got back to my own office and found out my actions were considered wrong. I got into trouble because I didn’t “hide” this the instant I began to sense a problem. And because I didn’t throw them off the trail when they came into the room. Sorry; but those thoughts never even entered my mind.

That leader of the company I worked for not only didn’t want to hear the bad news . . . he wanted to ignore it, hide it, and try to get away with it. I bluntly told him if I was faced with the same situation again I would respond the same; don’t ever ask me to hide something like that because I happen to believe it’s ethically wrong.

Well, I don’t know if all that ties into your blog post as tightly as you would like. But you triggered a strong memory and I just decided to share it.


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