Using Role Models

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“Let’s talk about how to use role models,” I suggested.

Gerri’s face set. “That’s not for me,” she said, “I don’t want to be anyone
but myself.”

Gerri’s worked hard to establish her identity in a profession where she’s one
of only a small percentage of women. Being herself is important to her, but that
doesn’t mean she can’t use role models to develop the skills she’ll need in her
newly-minted supervisory role. If you think using role models means simply
copying what others do, read on.

You could work things out yourself and develop a style that’s truly your own.
But you can also learn from how others do things and speed up your own
development process.

Pick role models you admire. You probably admire people
because of something you see in them that’s either what you are or what you
would like to become. You can even use your future self as a role model. Ask the
question Jim Cathcart suggests: “How would the person I want to be handle this?”

Select behaviors based on what you think will work for you.
Then, modify the behaviors to fit your personality, style, and situation. Every
leader and every leadership situation is unique.

Adjust for the future. The best way I know to do that is to
make notes on what works and what doesn’t and how you’ll do things differently
next time.

Keep learning as you develop your own style. Over time, your
mix of role models will change and your style will become more and more your
own. If you’re new to a leadership role, like Gerri, it will probably take a
year and a half or more before you’re comfortable in your leadership skin.

Keep learning as you develop mastery. You’re not done
learning when you get the basics of the job down. Mastery will take you a decade
or more.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Using role models is a great way to imagine and select behaviors that may
work for you. They can help you get ideas of the best things to try. As you
critique your own performance you’ll learn more and more of what works for you.

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