Role Models: A Dying Breed

It would appear that the norm in business, according to Chartered Management Institute (CMI) members, is to have poor role models. The good old days of having a manager, or another employee, that we could look up to and use as an example of model practice, are apparently gone.

In research undertaken by CMI, only 34% of those surveyed said their boss sets a good example. In addition, barley half (56%) said that they were able to identify a decent role model within their business. These statistics are worrying, and seem to demonstrate underlying issues facing business today.

Where are Managers Falling Short?
It would appear that there is a lack of employee engagement, and poor relationship development between managers and employees. Research undertaken by Lancaster University on management styles showed that the engaging manager type was in a ranked minority, whereas bureaucratic or autocratic management styles were favoured by the majority of managers. This then poses the supposition that the adoption of bureaucratic and/or autocratic management styles could be linked directly to the pressures faced by managers from their organisations. Furthermore, is the fear of organisational underperformance, which is in turn leading to increased pressure and stress related illness, linked? Consequently, is the decrease in modern business role models inevitable?

Additionally, it would also appear that many men in business still have some outdated notions regarding the gender role, and the ability of females in the workplace. Almost a quarter (22%) of men surveyed by CMI thought that males made better role models than women, and 8% thought being physically attractive is key. With information such as this, is it any wonder that there is a lack of role models in business today!

In light of this, let us consider the top ten role models as voted for by CMI members:

  • Richard Branson;
  • Nelson Mandela;
  • Margret Thatcher;
  • Alan Sugar;
  • Barack Obama;
  • Steve Jobs;
  • Bill Gates;
  • Mother Teresa;
  • Tony Blair;
  • John Harvey-Jones.

Unfortunately, half of the list are dead, really making the point that there is a lack of current and potential role models out there. Furthermore, only two of the top ten are women, and there is poor representation from ethnic minority groups. Also note, those represented are older, which suggests that to be a successful role model you may need to be older in years to fully appreciate the need to undertake your role beyond that of bureaucracy and that of an autocratic style of management. As discussed in a previous article, Is Older Better?, a professional manager is more than the sum of company policies and procedures; they have an obligation to lead, be effective, and own their behaviour.

Role models help shape business; they help shape employees and make individuals want to achieve more. With the evidence clearly pointing towards the demise of the role model, do we not owe it to our future to try and cultivate and inspire the next generation?

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