As people age, the notion of having a role model seems ridiculous. Role models are generally associated with children. However, as adults, especially in these uncertain times, we can all use role models. In this piece, the Professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne (Amherst) makes such a case. She argues that society at large tends to ignore positive role models because it is simply not “sexy”. News stories and social media rewards negative behaviors (e.g. drunk driving, assaults) from celebrities by devoting countless attention to their misdeeds. This is especially true for children, who are more impressionable. The author notes that studies have shown that through a process called vicarious reinforcement, where there’s a tendency to mimic a behavior that someone else receives praise or attention as if you were actually receiving the rewards of that behavior yourself.
The author argues that nowhere should adults look for role models than in the workplace. She presents a research study by two Penn State professors in which they looked at the steps that lead employers to view their supervisors as good ethical leaders. The researchers found that having adult role models impacts how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Overall, respondents reported that they preferred ethical leaders. As Professor Whitbourne profoundly states, “when you play fair, communicate directly, and in general demonstrate that you hold high standards, other people actually do look up to you.”
Who were and are your role models?