8 MIN READ
How to Be a Good Role Model
Setting a Positive Example at Work
Have you ever worked with a boss who kept calm and positive, even when he or she was under enormous pressure? Perhaps you've looked up to a co-worker who consistently went the extra mile for others.
Now consider how others see your behavior. Do you think you are a good role model for the people around you? You may not realize it, but your actions, attitudes, outlook, and ethics are likely influencing your team members, and being mirrored by them.
In this article, we'll explore the benefits of being a good role model, and what you can do to become one.
What Is a Role Model?
According to psychologist Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory, people develop by observing others' behaviors and copying them.
In particular, Bandura found that behaviors tend to "trickle down." In other words, a group takes its cues from its leaders.
So, if you demonstrate strong qualities like integrity, honesty and openness, you'll encourage your team members to behave in a similar way. But leaders who practice – or reward – bad behavior are likely to develop cultures in which individuals put their own interests ahead of the team's.
The Benefits of a Good Role Model
Good role models have a positive effect on the people around them. They're widely respected, and teams work harder and put in extra effort for people that they admire.
Organizations want leaders who will encourage and inspire others to be at their best, so good role models tend to be among the first to be considered for promotion.
They also find it easy to build alliances across an organization, as their reputation and personal brand are strong. So, if you take steps to become a good role model, you'll likely create a more effective team and business, and you'll boost your own career, too.
Six Traits of a Good Role Model
Good role models typically exhibit the following personality traits or qualities: self-awareness, positivity, humility, empathy, professionalism, and integrity. Let's look at them in more detail.
Do you know what role you're portraying at work? You can find out by increasing your self-awareness. This is the ability to reflect honestly and productively on your behavior, and on the impact that you have on others.
Once you can see yourself more clearly, you can develop self-mastery and self-regulation, too. And, by managing your emotions and well-being in this way, you'll have the ability to align what you do – and how you do it – with your values.
So, you'll be more true to yourself and affect others more positively. You'll likely get a positive response in return!
Negative people drag down those who have to work with them. By contrast, a positive attitude can help to develop an energetic, can-do team spirit.
No one can be cheerful all the time, but you can look for the opportunities in difficult situations. So, focus on what your team can do in any given situation, not on what it can't, and help it to build on those successes.
Good role models practice humility. They're honest when they're not sure what to do, and are happy to ask questions and learn. They are comfortable with encouraging other people to flourish, they give credit where it's due, and they don't hide behind rank or experience.
Empathy involves understanding the emotional needs of your people. You can develop empathy by using mindful listening, so that you really hear and understand what people are telling you. The more you're able to identify and connect with team members in this way, the more trust you'll build, and the stronger those connections will be.
Demonstrating professionalism means holding your actions and your work to an excellent standard. It involves more than just getting the job done – it taps into deeper personal qualities of integrity, honesty and respect for others.
Integrity is doing the right thing for the right reasons, even if that means not taking the easiest option. If you show integrity and a commitment to authenticity and ethical leadership, your team members will likely respond with the most important characteristic of good teamwork: trust.
Living with integrity is one of the cornerstones of being a good role model, as it is among the qualities that individuals and organizations look for most in their leaders. See our article, Preserving Integrity, for more on this vital trait.
Four Ways to Be a Good Role Model
You might have the necessary attributes to be a good role model, but how will you put them into practice for best effect? Let's look at a few day-to-day examples below:
- Communicating effectively with your team. Strong communication skills are important for any role model. They'll help you to foster high-quality connections and to build relationships based on trust and respect.
Supporting your organization's values. Good role models demonstrate their commitment to their employer's desired ways of working, and guide the behavior of their team members accordingly.
For example, you could volunteer for the company's corporate social responsibility program, or support a co-worker's inclusion and engagement by encouraging them to join relevant Employee Resource Groups. You'll also be sure to tackle any bad behavior promptly and effectively.
Working collaboratively. Good team players put their own egos aside and focus on the good of the group. As a role model, this is an attitude you'll be sure to adopt.
Create a Skills Matrix and assess your own and your people's strengths, weaknesses and preferred working styles. Then assign team roles and responsibilities for the best fit to promote collaboration – you'll all be more successful!
Supporting innovation. Take the lead when it comes to acquiring new skills and embracing new technologies that will help your business. As a role model, it's important that you stay "ahead of the curve."
Being a good role model benefits both you and the people who work with you. Good role models are widely respected, and they often find themselves in leadership positions. People naturally look up to them, seek to do their best for them, and copy their behaviors.
To be a good role model, focus on developing the following six personal qualities:
As you engage with your team members and offer yourself as a role model, try to do the following:
- Communicate effectively with your team.
- Support your organization's values.
- Work collaboratively.
- Support innovation.