What do Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah Winfrey all have in common? They have role models. Michelle is inspired by Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg by her mother, and Oprah by Maya Angelou (wonderful writer, poet and civil rights activist). So who inspires you? Who do you draw your life lessons from? The reasons behind why we need role models, or people to look up to, is similar to the reasons why we need good parents, good partners, and good managers. It’s actually pretty basic stuff. If we don’t have good examples of behaviours, actions, words, careers, relationships, lives – then how do we learn to be better? So, here’s the deal – role-models are super important in our lives, because:
1. They show us how it can be done, actually: Reading about personal or professional development is great, but all of this wonderful advice can be futile if we don’t see it in action. To understand, we need to watch other people, study behaviours, listen to how people talk. Particularly for those of us who learn through observation and practice, our role models can show us that self-improvement is not only possible, but it can be done with finesse, intentionality, and even grace.
2. We need people in our life that we can respect and draw confidence from: Just as children need good parents to look up to and learn from, we need people that we can grow from and respect. This is the case both personally and professionally. Personally, we need people in our lives that we can look to for guidance of how to better our relationships, and (let’s be honest) lead a less selfish, and more purposeful life. Professionally, we need to see that people ahead of us have achieved similar goals that we have set out for ourselves in our career. Particularly for us women, seeing more senior women achieving and kicking arse in our industry or life-choice is very important for us to observe in order for us to have the confidence in ourselves to do the same.
3. We need inspiration and motivation: We all love inspiring quotes and images (particularly us at Lumi ;), but it’s often not the image or words alone that inspire us – it’s what they mean. A role model is like a 1000 inspirational quotes bundled up together and personified – it’s someone that’s living out this inspiration in their day-to-day life. Women are inspired by other women that do amazing things, that manage both strong personal and professional domains, women that prioritise the things that are important, women that achieve their goals. These people are attractive because they have dreamt big, they have not been afraid to fail, they have learnt from their mistakes, and they have been successful at what they were pursuing – whatever this may be.
4. We need people from whom to draw our values and our moral compass: Pyschology today tells us that we need ‘ethical leaders’ in the workplace (and I would add, amongst our families and friends). We need people in our lives (as well as people famous in our circles that we respect) that we can observe to understand and dictate our own moral compass. If we respect honesty and integrity, we need people to look to that enact these values. If it’s humility that you seek – then you need to find humble (yet competent) people how embody a humble nature in their very being. If it’s justice and mercy – find people that you can look up to and identify the behaviours that align with these values.
5. We seek real-life answers to real-life questions: Life is not always happy-clappy. Sometimes, life’s really, really hard, and at times, we can find ourselves in a pit of despair without answers or solutions. This is perhaps where we need role models the most, particularly those role models that we know personally. Who do you call on when you are in a tough spot? – Why them? And some of the best advice-givers in our lives are not always going to give as the rose-coloured view. They are probably going to give it to us straight – and often, that’s what we need to hear. Without advice and guidance from people we respect, we would rely on the world for our answers – and that is rarely going to give us the learning we need.
So ladies, we need to both have good role model, and be good role models. Be the inspirational woman that you would be inspired by.