Much has been written over the years about the difference between Leaders and Managers. I agree with some opinions but not others however everyone’s thought process is different and I respect the variety of views. What people don’t tend to discuss is the difference between leaders and role models and where the 2 cross over.
Lets first look at what people think about when the term ‘Role Model’ is thrown around. Perhaps it’s someone you look up to, a personality or someone that has done things in life that have inspired you. Personally I look at people like Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt as people I look at and totally admire for what they have achieved. They have worked harder than everyone else to perfect their craft, made huge sacrifices along the way and never given up on that ultimate dream of being the greatest.
They are also great human beings who do a lot for charitable causes and generally provide a lot more joy than pain to the people they impact (Unless you are France in the Euros, Andy Murray or pretty much every 100m runner that ever lived). I thoroughly enjoy watching these guys and find them hugely inspirational in life. To me, they are great role models to the younger generation of athletes and anyone else that needs to apply themselves to a profession.
Of course, these people are not perfect, far from it and I’m sure behind closed doors they have just as many little issues as all of us. Despite this, I will judge them on what I see as a spectator and because of that, they are my ‘Role Models’
So what about Leadership?
Interestingly, I don’t see these 3 as leaders in the common sense of the word. Sure, Ronaldo is the captain of Portugal but lets be honest, is he more concerned about the team or his own performance and image? I love the guy but he loves himself more than anyone I have ever known.
The other 2 are very much individuals, looking after number one and blocking out everything that may cause them harm or stress. It is that focus and single mindedness that has got them to where they need to be, at the top of the world.
Traditionally, leaders are responsible for others in one form or another. Whether they are a director of a company, the captain of a sports team or the leader of a nation, they all have people that look to them for answers, guidance and inspiration. A leader may inspire a handful of people or an entire country but the basic rules apply.
Does this mean that all leaders are role models?
No. Very often leaders are there to make the decisions that others are not willing to make. The decision to exit someone from a position, to remove a key player from the field of play or to send troops to war are all part of a leaders role that others will forever scrutinize and question. They are decisions based on the greater good that effect a whole host of people rather than just the individual/s in question. Very often they are choices that cause upset, unrest and short term pain however if someone is not guiding us down the right path, the only thing coming out of the situation is chaos and mayhem.
This does mean however that we see these ‘Leaders’ in a very different light to our ‘Role Models’ who seemingly only ever bring us joy and happiness. These are the people that take us away from our day to day grind and motivate us to be better, stronger, faster, richer. They show us that anything is possible if we work hard enough and will therefore always be seen as people we look up to and admire.
When do the 2 cross over?
A few names spring to mind…
Martin Luthor King
Sir Alex Ferguson
There are some key reasons why all the names on this list fit into both the role model and leader category. The leader part is easy, they have all lead groups of individuals from a small football team or a group of musicians all the way up to entire countries and global businesses. The reason I personally put them in the ‘Role Model’ box is that they have all worked tirelessly in pursuit of their goals. At some time or another, they have all been masters at what they do and what they have achieved, making them inspirational characters in history.
Should you like your Role Models?
In general, you would have some sort of positive feeling towards someone you class as a role model, however there are instances where someone makes all the right decisions and is a master at what they do, they are just not that likable. Some people with a very single vision of ultimate success may look at someone like Zuckerberg and think he has done an amazing job, however does that mean they feel any warmth towards him?
It really depends on the type of person you are. I am quite an emotional guy so when one of my 3 role models loses a race or match, I feel for them, it has an impact on my day because I genuinely want these guys to do well and in addition to that, would love to meet them in person.
Leaders and Role Models can be extremely different and require different qualities. Role Models are very often people with a single focus of self improvement and success with the ultimate aim of being the number 1 in their field through hard work, determination and shear will power. They do things the right way and very often create an emotional attachment with the people that follow and idolize them.
Leaders are very often responsible for more than just themselves in a variety of forms. They are inspirational and capable of making decisions that others will not. Although they are looked up to, very often they will be seen as the enemy if they are forced to make a tough choice. They have the best interests of the wider audience at heart and make decisions based on long term goals rather than the here and now.
In a few exceptional cases, the 2 cross over but this is an extremely tough skill to master.