Recently while browsing Twitter, a message unexpectedly stopped me in my tracks. “It must be clear, dad,” the tweet read. The words captioned a photo of a young boy straightening his father’s mortar board while earning his doctorate.
“A boy proud of his father and sure of his love,” the post concluded.
Looking at this tweet, I was moved to imagine my kids doing the same. It made me wonder: am I a role model for each of my five children? Am I a model leader? I hoped so, because for the boy in this tweet, his dad wasn’t just a role model, he was a hero.
This led me to consider the idea of leaders being heroes, not to be revered, but to inspire their teams. Of course, I would cringe if you were looking to be recognized as a hero, but also, I would cheer you on if you did such a good job that your team wanted to emulate you.
But what is a model leader, I reflected. Struggling to find the answer, I decided to ask around. The responses I received indicated that a role model leader is someone you aspire to be like in the future – but that was still vague to me. Deciding to dig deeper, I posed the question to a few notable business leaders, and here is the model they described:
* A role model leader is someone from whom others learn. Employees have a very strong desire to learn. They crave a leader who teaches them more and creates an environment where they can grow. The ironic thing is that most organizations still hire technical experts for management and leadership roles.
It’s one thing to “buy” skills, but it’s more efficient to hire a skills builder.
* A role model leader challenges people to be the best, to strive for excellence. They have very high standards and don’t want to back down from them. They don’t hesitate to go the extra mile to deliver top quality and do more than what is asked.
In addition, they recognize the potential of their teams and believe in them. Although their pursuit of excellence is overstated, role models build the confidence of their employees so that they can achieve it.
* A model leader is accessible. Rather than sitting at the desk behind a closed door, they go out with people. They go beyond saying, “I have an open door” and move towards the passage where the troops are.
Being approachable to a role model leader doesn’t just mean people can come to him (which can be intimidating), they go to their teams.
* Some leaders argue that there is no place for “having fun” at work, but a role model leader makes work difficult and long hours inviting and enjoyable. They realize that when their teams are having fun, they are more willing to put in the extra effort and that with extra effort, productivity increases.
* A more leadership role is loyal and protective towards his people, and someone who has the backs of his employees.
The leader who came up with the latter description recounted how an employee said of his boss, “When I sleep at night, I know I’m safe in their hands. I have to admit in my twenty plus years of leadership research; I haven’t heard many leaders describe it that way.
Last but not least, a role model leader is not a fool, said one respondent (albeit in much stronger language). Enough said.
Interestingly, when I asked the same leaders to describe the “anti-role” leader, their responses were almost instantaneous. Right away, they looked into what the leaders are doing wrong and didn’t hesitate to name names.
For me, this raised an important question: do our workforce have more “anti-role” leaders than leadership heroes? And here’s a question for you: what team would you say you are?
Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at [email protected]