Technological advancement in 21st century has changed everything. Whereas it was easy in the past for our parents to command us to see or not see certain people, these days our children are exposed to all sorts of people and therefore to instil ethics and values into them to critically think what their role models should be takes more effort.
In my simple definition, a good role model is simply anyone who thrives to live by principles and set good example of something positive and progressive. Please note that am not presenting a good role model here as a perfectionist, rich, celebrity or VIP as done in many circles. I know to get someone perfect in this world is next to impossible and so in outlining qualities of a good role model I will keep it as simple as I can and try to think outside the traditional choice of a few role models who are famous, popular, rich or always on television.
My role models were ordinary market women who woke up to sell tomatoes, vegetables and fruits daily at the market. It is their resilience that taught me to be the woman I am today. I identified with their daily struggles and their stories were always about making their situation better. Their hard work role modelled me to work hard all my life. Even though they were not educated, they sent all their children to school and most of their children are professionals round the globe. Not a day have they asked to be recognised for it.
Here below is what I saw in the market women that so inspired me about being a good role model no matter what level of society you are. Below I will give just five tips on how young people especially can look for role models to help them innovate, dream, aspire and turn the impossible into possible.
- Positive and progressive-It is much easier to see someone being called a billionaire, award winner, star, expert or whatever. A good role model is out to show the process of their progressive positive energy. The world is now full of negativity and hopelessness and for one to stand above the rest and show the lighter side of life can be something worth emulating. Whether they sold anything or not, market women never stopped their fight for economic empowerment. They kept positive energy and daily devised strategies to make it work.
- Turning negative into positive– someone who has gone through a hard journey and comes out to inspire other people that no matter how bad something can be turned into good. Here am pointing out to transformational leadership as a principle. The idols we present to children are not as ideal. In real life people who turned tragedy into triumph, chaos into calm, pain into gain, victim into victors and negative into positive are my good role models. A role model is one who stands out to share a journey because what makes people move forward is hope for change. We also leave legacies. If today we count the number of single mothers whose sons have become Presidents, we can only educate those who think single mothers are not role models. They went above societal expectations and to me they are indeed good role models.
- Empowerment-They always say you can’t empower others if you are not empowered yourself. A good role model who is self-empowered can easily transmit the positive energy into others. They have self-esteem and confidence. They stand up to say things straight. They are clean of rumour and gossip. They take care of themselves as much as they care for others. There are many who go to help others before helping themselves. Imagine how many died in the diaspora and who looked rich but people had to launch fundraising to have their bodies buried back home in Africa. Appearance always beat reality and vice versa. There is no day market women asked anyone to help bury one of their own. In their bras was wealth banked.
- A role model always gives knowledge to others-They say great leaders groom great leaders. In our pursuit to make the world a better place, we always do this by leaving knowledge that future generations can even improve on.
- A role model never dies- their legacies live on- Of course you may wonder why people talk about Mother Theresa, President Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and many other heroes. Whatever they did was so heroic that their histories will never be rubbed. So a role model leaves people inspired more than materially rich. And of course their lasting investment would have been in people and not only self.
Well this is my take on what a good role model should be. The question is what are your footsteps like? Once your footsteps speak of an empowerment journey, then everyone wants to try those ones. No one is modelled by negativity. In positive energy, empowerment and leadership principles we find role models and we would rather follow them to their graves.
Written by Muzvare HRH Betty Makoni http://www.muzvarebettymakoni.org/