Heroes and role models

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?

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2 responses to “Heroes and role models

  1. I was thinking about this just the other day, male or female a) we often come up with the obvious ones and b) I don’t have any and I feel like I am missing something in not having one .My mission over the coming months is to really think hard about this question, as it’s hard to know where to aim your own ethics, values and passion if there’s nothing ‘aspirational’ ahead of you.

  2. It’s funny, I must have heard this question a hundred times, mostly in school where we were supposed to write essays about these sorts of things. But I can’t remember ever really trying, as an adult, to answer it, and I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to come up with a satisfactory answer.

    There are plenty of people with great qualities in my life whom I want to be like as a person, kind, generous (in many ways), hard-working, passionate.

    I think it’s somewhat more interesting to think about the people I admire intellectually/professionally than personally, though, because I think people tend to all want to be things like generous, kind, etc. I think I can be more specific speaking about my intellectual “heroes.”

    I would like to do something as beautiful as what Virginia Woolf did. Writing in my own style, of course, but with the kind of innovation and skill she had. T S Eliot. Yeats. George Eliot. John Keats had a way with words that just takes my breath away.

    As a thinker, I really admire Michel Foucault, and how he got under the skin of things to the assumptions and relationships that drive cultural forces. Elaine Showalter. Judith Butler.

    I don’t think I would call any of these people my heroes or role models-both terms seem slightly different from the way I look at Woolf et al-but they are people I admire and have learned a great deal from.

    I noticed as I did this that most of the people I was thinking of were white & western, which I think is partly a result of specialized research interests, but also reflects how one-dimensional my education has been in some ways. Definitely something for me to think about.

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