The Importance of Role Models and How to Be a Good One for Others

UPDATED: April 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 17, 2024
Portrait of Amy Somerville asking why are role models important

Today, I want to explore an important concept: modeling.

Now, when I say “modeling,” I don’t mean catwalks and fashion shows. Instead, I’m referring to the idea of using a positive role model as a guide to behavior and values in your life! 

Think of this concept as an architectural model. Before architects build any kind of structure, they often create a model. This model provides a blueprint, a kind of visual guide to what they’re creating. And the same concept applies to our lives—role models, mentors and those who inspire us all serve as human models.

No matter your age and where you are personally or professionally, a role model can be important to you. And you may be a role model to others around you.

What is a role model?

Merriam-Webster defines a role model as follows: a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others. And while that’s certainly true, a role model is much more than just someone others want to imitate. Role models embody the values, attitudes and behaviors that we admire and aspire to emulate. 

They guide us. They inspire us. And, oftentimes, they challenge us to become better versions of ourselves. Role models can be just about anyone, from celebrities and other figures in the public eye to individuals we know in our everyday lives (think parents, friends or co-workers). A role model can offer guidance and inspiration as well as help you stay motivated—whether they know you directly or not!

I smile to myself just thinking about the incredible mentors and role models I have had. Some of them I’ve never even had the pleasure to meet, but they have certainly contributed to the person I am today. I’m sure you’ve had a number of role models in your own life that have played a part in shaping who you are as well.

"SUCCESS Starter Kit" bundle in store offer

Why are role models important?

So, modeling isn’t just about copying someone else’s life. It’s really more about learning from their journey and wisdom and then applying it to our own unique circumstances. We take what resonates with us, and then we kind of leave out what doesn’t.

When it comes to your personal and professional development, a role model can be a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration in many ways. In fact, a 2023 survey from Amazon and Gallup, “Role Models Matter,” found that young adults under the age of 40 were more likely to be satisfied with their financial and career standing if they had a role model to look to in their childhood. The importance of a role model is something that we clearly shouldn’t be overlooking.

That study shows us that role models can have a lasting effect in more than one way. They bring a number of benefits to the table.

Some of those benefits include:

  • Guidance. A role model can offer guidance to others by demonstrating how they go about their lives. This might be through showing how they handle certain situations via their behavior, or this may look like offering support and advice to others through several means like writing or conversations.
  • Inspiration. Everyone faces challenges in life, and seeing how a role model handles their challenges, either in their personal or professional life, can serve as inspiration in facing your own. They can also inspire you to set goals for yourself, such as working toward a promotion, practicing a skill or even focusing on your well-being.
  • Goal setting. We can take a look at how a role model has gotten to where they are today and then use their journey as a guide for ourselves. This can help influence goal setting, whether you want to understand how they got into their industry or what steps they took to achieve something.

Directly or indirectly, a role model will be someone who you connect with in one way or another. Someone who has values, beliefs, ideas or behaviors that you’d like to strive for in your own life. 

How to be a good one for others

Here’s the deal: You’re a model for others too. People are always watching—your colleagues, your children, your peers, you name it. The way you navigate your world, your choices and your values all serve as a guide for those around you. So, let’s model what we want to see in the world.

I’m sure you’ve heard that before, especially when referring to the importance of a role model. Qualities like empathy, kindness, resilience and integrity are best inspired in others by living them for real and out loud in our own lives. So, some simple ways to be a good role model for others and live those qualities include: 

  • Share your experience and knowledge. This can be done directly with people around you, such as having one-on-one chats, seeking out speaking opportunities or by inviting others to join you on a project. Indirectly, you can share your experience by writing a blog post, making a YouTube video or making a social media post.
  • Find opportunities where you can have a positive impact on others. Volunteer locally for a cause you care about, at a local school or university or with a mentoring program like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. You can also see if your workplace offers any type of mentoring opportunities.
  • Be transparent with those around you as much as you’re comfortable doing so. You can be transparent by sharing both wins and challenges you’re facing, being honest in how you communicate with others and being consistent.
  • Let your passion show. We’re all passionate about something, whether that be a special interest or hobby or what we do for work. Sharing your love for what you do or enjoy is a simple way to model to others that embracing what they’re passionate about is important.

With those ideas to think on, I’d like you to consider the following: Who are the models in your life, what have you learned from them and, most importantly, how can you embody those learnings in your own unique way? And, then, I’d like you to think about what values and attitudes you are modeling for others.

Remember, the world needs your unique light. I encourage you to let it shine brightly!

Photo by ©Mike D’Avello

Amy Somerville, CEO of SUCCESS® Enterprises, is a mission-driven leader with demonstrated success in developing highly effective teams, delivering dynamic learning strategies, and building engaged communities. She is a passionate community-builder, gathering like-minded, successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople to share best practices for success. She lives her life intentionally and is driven daily by the acronym L.I.V.E.: LEAD, INSPIRE, VALUE, EMPATHIZE. Follow Amy on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.