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  • Mike Acker

How to Develop Your Leadership Skills Through Role Models

Updated: Aug 18


Leaders are born, they say. Others also say they make leaders. For decades, this has been a million-dollar question. People have been trying to figure out whether leadership qualities are characteristic at birth or people develop into prominent leaders.


Recently, scientific research has suggested that leadership is 30% genetic and 70% learned. If so, the popular saying, “Follow who knows the road,” has been justified in leadership.


Thus, mentors and role models are an integral part of leadership success. For many of us, they help shape who we want to be when we grow up. They help us dream, imagine and plan for the future.


A role model is an informal educational tool. To some, it may be a grandparent, an uncle, a cousin, a best friend’s mom or dad, or a teacher or faculty member.


In June 1995, the South African rugby team, Springbok, won the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time. The awe was not from winning the trophy but from the influence of Nelson Mandela on the captaincy of Francois Pienaar. He described the advice from Nelson Mandela as the ‘Golden trophy’.


That is the power of setting an exemplary role model.


Similarly, in today’s corporate world, leaders look for role models to follow and learn from. The effect of role models like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and more is strikingly apparent in the leadership styles of today’s most popular leaders.


You cannot overstate the importance of role models. They are not superheroes, rock stars, or celebrities. People who work hard to achieve their goals and earn respect from others are what they are. They can help us learn and grow in our careers.


Consider these tips about role models:


  1. Role models are a source of inspiration to us. They motivate us to achieve more than we think is possible. Looking at their successes and impact, we gain the conviction that we can also be like them.


2. They help us build our self-confidence. Role models help us visualize what we want to become. It gives us the confidence to thrive during difficult times of our leadership adventure.


3. Role models help shape our personalities. They influence professional and personal decision-making. Their impact also enables us to build great character.


4. Role models show us the way. It is said that everything we dream of doing is not new anymore. They inspire us to keep going, take risks, and try new things.


5. Role models show the standards we set for ourselves. All great people confess to having had someone, they idolize growing up.


For instance, Portuguese football icon Cristiano Ronaldo confessed to having two Brazilian stars, Ronaldo Nazário and Ronaldinho Gaúcho, as his role models in football growing up.


We should carefully consider these tips when thinking of having a role model:


  1. Choose carefully. We choose role models based on their outstanding performance and successes in what they do. They should be people of great value and moral standings, people who have gone beyond all limitations and made it to the top.


2. Make them your coach. Do you imagine why outstanding athletes and women have coaches even though they have the talents and skills? It is because coaches keep us inspired and motivated and drive us towards a certain course.


3. Have worthy role models. It is always good to aim at the moon so that even if we fall, we fall on the stars. This means we must set significant targets so that if we do not achieve them, we can have equal alternative success. Select people who are among the best in their field.


Learning from leaders who came before you is the best way to hone your leadership abilities. If you are looking for some superb models to learn from, consider men like Jack Welch, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs, who achieved their dreams bigger than most can even imagine. Become the leader you aspire to be!


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