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6 traits of an effective role model

You’ve probably heard that the Democrats have chosen Kamala Harris as their vice-presidential candidate. 

Harris is an unprecedented role model for women and people of colour. But in her own words, “You don’t have to be famous to be a role model.” 

Every leader, every CEO, and every line manager is a role model for their staff. The only question is: are you an effective one? 

The way you act, your attitude, and the values you live by set the expectations for your team. They won’t do as you say – they’ll do as you do.

Your employees are watching you constantly. It’s like being on stage. A leadership role is a performance – but when a performance is this up close and personal, 40+ hours a week, there’s no room for theatrics. If you’re not sincere, they’ll know – and you’ll be modelling dishonesty.

So, when you read over these six traits, don’t just ask yourself how you can display them when people are looking. Ask how you can truly embody them. Probably not even Kamala Harris can manage all six perfectly all the time, but if you do your best, you’ll see your team begin to embody them too.

Hard work

Some tasks are too menial for you as a manager, right? Wrong. A good role model works hard and is ready to pitch in when their team needs a hand. If somebody needs to scrub the floor and you’re the only one free, you scrub the floor – and scrub it well. 

People love leaders who do this. It’s not just about making sure things get done, it’s not even just about showing your commitment to the company and the team, it also demonstrates that in your team, there’s no such thing as “not my job”. That means they’ll start stepping up and being proactive when something needs to be done (and maybe next time, you won’t have to scrub that floor!)

Trust

Trust has to be earned. Demonstrate to your team that they can trust you by being consistent, fair, and honest. Don’t gossip, and don’t allow your people to gossip. Your staff need to feel secure that you have your backs, so prove it to them every chance you get.

If you want your staff to take responsibility for their own actions, you need to inspire them by taking responsibility for your own. Avoid making excuses or blaming others. Be big enough to admit you screwed up, apologise, and explain what you plan to do to fix it. Wouldn’t it be nice if your people did that? Hopefully, if you do, they’ll follow suit.

Respect

If you want your employees to respect you, and to respect your customers, you have to show respect to everyone: employees, customers, suppliers, everyone you come into contact with, in every situation. 

That goes double when you have to give negative feedback or discipline someone. Always do it in private to avoid humiliating them, and keep your criticism constructive and focused on the actual behaviour, not on who they are as a person. You’ll soon see that they respect you in return.

Positivity

Do you expect your lowliest employees to provide service with a smile? Then you’d better provide leadership with a smile. Of course, being a leader is a high-pressure, unpredictable job, and things can get very stressful. But if you fly off the handle, your team can’t fail to notice, so don’t be surprised if they start overreacting themselves. 

Remember your team are watching, and try to model the kind of behaviour you expect from them when the going gets tough. (That can include asking for help; after all, you want them to ask for help when they need it!)

Persistence

Dogged persistence when things get difficult shows your team that they can rely on you. If you run into problems or obstacles, don’t abandon your task or lose your sense of urgency. Shore up your resolve and get stuck in, and your team will follow suit.

Integrity

Do you want your people to follow the rules? Then you should too. All of them. No coming in late because you’re the boss. No being tipsy in the office because you had an important business lunch (unless you’re okay with your PA being tipsy too.) Your staff will quite rightly think that’s unfair – so be as punctual, productive, and law-abiding as you expect them to be.