Hey Leader: You Are A Role Model

Role ModelThe media had generally ignored the personal lives of athletes up until the 1990’s. This is when athletes began having a much larger role in the tabloids like they do today.

Now it seems like there’s a new athlete on the cover of the Enquirer every week.

Living in Reality

Some famous athletes took exception to this invasion of privacy because their record wasn’t exactly clean. Big surprise! They loved being in the spotlight for a couple of hours when they were playing their sport, but they didn’t want to live like a Hollywood celebrity. However, that was starting to become reality.

This controversy hit a fever-pitch when Charles Barkley was in a commercial where he claimed this:

“I’m not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”


If you know of Barkley from his broadcasts with the NBA, you know that he lives in a dream world. This statement is just absurd.

Whose Perspective?

What was the problem with Barkley’s statement? He felt that kids should admire an athlete’s ability, but not idolize them. Unfortunately for him, we don’t control whether or not we are role models. We don’t get to say, “Hey, love me for a few hours while I’m at my best, but ignore me for the rest of the time.”

It is actually the person who is watching you that makes that choice for you.

They are the ones that choose whether or not you are a role model. Anyone in the public spotlight like that will be seen by somebody as a role model. Pop star Demi Lovato realized this when she said, “I never thought that I’d be a role model. Everyone kind of just made me a role model, and I hated that.”

Here’s Looking at You

People have this innate fascination with public figures that makes us want to be more like them. This is no only true for children, but it is also true for the people that you work with. Someone doesn’t have to be on television to have all eyes on them. Simply being a leader makes you someone’s role model.

The big question for us to ask is this:

“Am I living like a positive role model?”

If you’re going to be in the spotlight, you may as well choose to live a life that is worthy of idolizing.

How Do Others See You?

If we’re going to figure out the type of role model that we want to be, we need to start with assessing how we are currently seen. Just like a large retail company, you have to count the inventory that you keep in the warehouse. Picture a large warehouse with racks stacked high with boxes. There are forklifts moving the boxes around and action is buzzing around you.

Bottom Shelf

On the bottom shelf is where your Values are kept.

These are the heaviest of the boxes, so they’re kept down low. They are also the easiest for others to see. What values do you hold dearly? Are they the values that you want others to have as well?

Second Shelf

On the racks right above your Values are your Thoughts.

They are the internal narrative to your everyday life. Are your thoughts lining up with your values? Are you secretly sabotaging yourself by having your Thoughts and Values out of sync? For example, if you value your potential, are your thoughts telling you that you aren’t good enough to reach it? If these Thoughts outweigh your Values, they will drop and replace their spot on the bottom shelf.

Third Shelf

Feelings are on the third shelf in your warehouse.

Your Feelings should be rooted in your Values and Thoughts… not your environment. What happens to us when our feelings aren’t aligned with our values and thoughts? That’s when we start to have after-the-event feelings like regret. Root your Feelings in your Values and Thoughts as a leader, and you won’t betray yourself.

How Do You Want To Be Seen?

After you’ve completed your inventory count, does it look the way that you want it to? You have the ability to make changes and have your warehouse look the way you want it to. You can move some of the boxes around and even replace a few.

Whether you want to be or not, you are a role model as a leader. There is no wiggling out of this one, Mr. Barkley.

The  important question is this:

“Am I being the role model I need to be?”

Note: The preceding is adapted from the book Child-Like Leadership


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Rich Bishop
Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. mattmichnal on February 28, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Loved the blog post. Especially since you took a classic, “anti-role model,” ad and went through and systematically negated everything that Charles Barkley was trying to say in that commercial. As leaders and celebrities, sports figures are indeed role models, even if they don’t want to be.

    • Rich Bishop on February 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Thank you, Matt! I appreciate it. If we take the spotlight as leaders, then we have to accept the fact that someone is looking up to us.

  2. Annemarie Viljoen on March 3, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Great post. You make a very important point: to be a role model, you need to have good, solid values and your behaviour has to be anchored in these values. The problem with so many ‘fallen’ and ‘disgraced’ role models, is that they never had a clear value system. When you don’t know what you stand for, it is very easy to go where the grass looks greener, and where the fun seems to be.

    • Rich Bishop on March 4, 2013 at 4:54 am

      Thank you, Annemarie! You’re right, it’s easy for a leader to build quick success, but they will crumble if their foundation is not solid.I think that it’s important for us as leaders to reflect on how we are living up to our values occasionally so we can keep ourselves on the right course.