10 Jul 2011

Where have all the role models gone?

I must admit to feeling disappointed. As a leadership and team development facilitator, I look for examples in media / corporate life, politics and personal experience to illuminate key points I want to discuss and raise in training.

I have been reviewing the key examples that I use for points on vision, personal ethics, integrity, trust, responsibility and have come to realise that not only are some of the examples I have been using a little dated – I have found it very hard to find up-to-date replacements.

While I use many references to coaches and players of particular sporting codes (I have highlighted my sport obsession recently), I find that my love of sport is not enjoyed by everyone – in fact it can alienate some groups. For some people, the great examples of courage, teamwork and discipline can be overshadowed by lack of personal ethics and behaviour that are often demonstrated off the field.

So where to find the examples? Business?

While I can think of fantastic examples of creativity, ingenuity, quality and persistence in the business world, great examples of leadership and personal example to look up to are harder to find.

Can you think of a business leader that provides an example that others should follow?

Which brings me to politics – and sadly my greatest disappointment when it comes to leadership. I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch ‘question time’ in the Australian Parliament at the end of last week. The examples displayed – childish behaviour, not answering questions, jeering each other, ignoring the presence of people and deriding the comments of women – left me feeling deflated, disappointed and angered all at once. How can these people be our leaders? While sports people could decry that they play professional sport and should not be held up as role models (a separate article could be created on this debate), I don’t believe that can be said for our politicians.

They should be our role models! In any successful business, the examples displayed by Australian politicians would not be tolerated. In fact, the examples would not only generate performance management action and formal warning, you would expect most to be removed from the business all together before they created a lawsuit with their behaviour.

Vision, values, integrity, honesty, responsibility, accountability, lead by example – are these words now only found on motivational posters? Are these not the traits that we expect our leaders to display? If so, these qualities appear to be sadly lacking from the leaders of our political parties. Should we expect more? Am I naïve in expecting our political leaders to provide guidance and an example that I look up to? I shouldn’t be too harsh on Australian politics, the poor example set by politicians goes beyond national borders – French and American politics has provided plenty of poor examples of late.

Were the politicians of the past as bad as the current crop, or did they just face less personal scrutiny in a time without a 24-hour news cycle and social media?

For now, I am happy for some of my examples of good leadership values / behaviours to be a little dated.

Where have all the great role models gone?

Can you think of a great modern-day leader that demonstrates values / ethics / personal qualities that can be set as an example for others? I would love to hear from you!