Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The term role model is usually positive and is defined as someone who can be emulated by others.  I think of the leaders in my personal and professional life who have shaped my development, and for whom I now attempt to emulate.  A lofty goal, but one I am comfortable striving to achieve.


I often use the term when referring to expectations I have of leaders in the organizations I've worked, of world leaders, and of myself as a Human Resources executive, father, and youth hockey coach.  But what about the role models that transcend our understanding of leadership?  How do we reconcile in our minds that some leaders go far beyond the quick wit and Type A personalities we may have, and lead in ways we can not fathom, let alone dare to emulate?


DB-Kopf-gerade.jpgMy father "introduced" me to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pictured on the left, when I was a child.  I had no way of comprehending the magnitude of his leadership, and sacrifice, until much later in life.  Now that I can better understand what it means to sacrifice, challenge, be accepting of others, to lead - I realize more than ever how ill-equipped I am to emulate him.

Quite honestly I hope I never have to wrestle with the choice he finally made.  Although safe in the United States, he returned to Nazi Germany, he took action, because that was the only way he knew how to lead.  His decision cost him his life when the Nazis murdered him.  Emulate Dietrich?  Impossible, right?


Some times when we are confronted with an example on an epic scale, such as Dietrich's, we dismiss our potential connection, and failings, before we even take the time to consider our options.  What possible options might we have?  Simple.  We can choose to take action even when we know it is going to be much more difficult than doing nothing.  Action.  It's a great word.  Have you ever heard anyone say, "I wish I hadn't tried to make a difference?"  Rarely, if ever.  It is always better to try and do the right thing.


No, weren't not.  It's not fair to us, or for that matter, to Dietrich.  He was an extraordinary man living in the most horrific of situations.  Most of us are working in environments that do not come close to the dangers he faced.  But we can still decide to make a difference.  We can still decide to take action.  We can still lead.


Who are the role models in your life?  Who is that special person that stands out above all others?  Who do you try to emulate?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Pic of Dietrich Bonhoeffer courtesy of


  1. Role models often fall into specific aspects of one's life. I look to Rick Warren as a role model for my faith life, Suzy Welch when I need a role model to pull me out of a failure, and much less famous examples to emulate as I watch my those around me day to day. Often mentors are those who quietly impact our lives.

  2. You've offered great examples of how role models can impact our lives in many different ways. It makes me want to generate a list of ALL of those that I feel this way about, including those on a grand scale.

  3. I have a couple people in mind who I think have taugh me a lot, no one famous, or infamous. These are people I have come to know and our paths have crossed. I worked with them, watched them and learned from them because more often than not your actions speak loudder than your word. My role models are common folks but good people.

  4. It's amazing how people can make such an impact on us, and they may not even be aware that we consider them role models. You said it well..."my role models are good people."

  5. My favorite role models are those that I know personally. They are the people who treat their colleagues (fellow C-level execs) the same respect as the person who comes to empty the trash or to serve some coffee. At the end of the day, we're all the same, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

  6. It's interesting that I've heard so many examples of role models that are up close and personal v. the famous ones from throughout history. I love hearing the different perspectives!