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Arguments about the qualities required in a leader are raging on both sides of the Atlantic and at the time of writing, we don’t quite know what might happen next in these turbulent, if very interesting times.

In situations like this, the term ‘role model’ tends to arise at some point in the debate. Questions of morality, ethical credibility and even illegality have been thrown up regarding both the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump in recent days.

Political views aside, the idea that the person who is leading the country should be a role model is not an unreasonable one. After all, they have great power over the destinies of millions, so it’s understandable that people should want to feel they can trust, respect and even admire the figure at the helm. The same is true of the bosses and managers who hold sway over our livelihoods.

However, just as no human being is perfect, perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect any one leader to be a fully rounded role model in every sense. We cannot be all things to all people, so if you’re looking for that all-round perfect mentor, you’re probably going to be disappointed. In business, we may find that we have several role models who individually epitomise our aspirations for different areas of our careers.

For example, we may have a boss who can be relied upon to trust their own judgement and confidently make tough decisions that others would prefer not to manage. However, the price we pay for their decisiveness may be a lack of attention to other people’s concerns.

The team leader who has an enviable capacity to manage people and get the best from their team may not have highly honed business acumen, relying instead on direction from above. People fulfil different roles in a business according to their strengths and are not expected to be equally brilliant at accounting as they are at marketing, and so on.

Does this mean they are not good role models, if they lack certain key business skills or attributes while being outstandingly strong in others?

We certainly don’t think so – people can be inspiring without being perfect. But the good news is that most skills gaps, both practical and behavioural, can be bridged through effective support and it’s never too late in your career to start!

Originally published on Linkedin – October 2019

Mark Fryer

9th October 2019

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