Who is your hero? Who do you look up to? Is there anyone that makes you feel the way you did when you were 11 and you discovered someone who seemed slightly godlike in their achievements?
I was chatting to a friend back in London on MSN the other day when we got to talking about our old CEO. She is lucky enough to still work for the woman in question, and we both shyly confessed to having major hero worship feelings towards the boss.
It got me to thinking of this perennial question of whether a lack of role models is directly linked to underachievement among disadvantaged societal groups. You hear it all the time; does America have enough successful black men to show black youth opportunities beyond the overly evident gang culture? (I am sure Obama is helping somewhat with that one!) Do young girls in schools see enough successful women? Well, I think there are some excellent role models out there for women, plenty in fact, my issue is that the media rarely gives them the exposure they are due – instead choosing to run yet another article about former topless models and their popstar husbands. So I wanted to share with you four of my heroes, in no particular order.
1) The CEO of my last company. Awesome woman. Started the agency with a partner and in nine years it was operational in 5 countries, employing well over 100 people and had spun out three separate ventures. A no bullsh*t woman who is highly professional. You know where you stand – the business is all important but if you bring something to that business she will bend over backwards to give you what you need to continue to make that contribution. One of the most savvy business people I have ever come across.
2) My grandmother (MBE). An accountant and the patron of a whole heap of local charities. She also raised two children and was the epitome of the phrase ‘pillar of the community’. She was chairman of the governors at my school. All in all, a remarkable woman to grow up with, and one who taught me that I can do whatever I want with my life (and she never even had to put that in words – she said it by example).
3) Richard Branson. Quite simply THE most successful business person in my personal league table. I love his passion for what he does, and the way he is not ashamed to let his heart guide the decisions his head has to make. He wants to own a company in an industry he is interested in… then he works out how to make it happen. He approaches business with good humour, but I have no doubts that his brain is as sharp as a brand new block of knives. I even like those ugly jumpers he wears because they demonstrate that he does business *his* way.
Two out of three are women. Not bad at all! What about you? Are your heroes the same gender as you? Are your commonalities driven by sex, age, nationality, industry, a disadvantage or handicap you share, family… or something else?