Pick Your Role Models Carefully

by | Mar 20, 2021 | Leadership, Miscellaneous

The headlines are full of leadership wisdom from our modern industry titans: Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, and Jobs (even though he passed away nearly 10 years ago).  

Do you want to be like them?

What I can say for certain is that I don’t aspire to be Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg. Looking back at olden times, I also don’t wish to be Henry Ford, John Rockefeller, or Andrew Carnegie. These people all built businesses that had a profound impact on the world, and it made them enormously wealthy in the process.

However, despite their business brilliance, they seem like deeply flawed humans. I read the book “Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography” by Walter Isaacson, and Jobs was a pretty awful person. Perhaps the world needs people like him to change the game, but I don’t think that means that we should all aspire to be like him.

Pick your role models carefully. Look past the headlines. There are many highly successful companies that have/had outstanding leaders.  Here are two examples of people that are good role models for me:

Example #1: Herb Kelleher

Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines built a company that has LUV as one of its core values. Their reputation for being fun and doing the right things for customers is well known. Kelleher showed that creating a culture of engagement and teamwork can create outstanding outcomes for Southwest’s people and stakeholders. Southwest Airlines has outperformed all of the other major airlines, and their attitude towards people was an essential ingredient of their success.

Example #2: Bob Chapman

Bob Chapman is the CEO and Chairman of BarryWehmiller. He has grown the company from $20 million in 1975 to $2.5 billion today using a model that he calls Truly Human Leadership. His book “Everybody Matters” describes his philosophies about putting people first. One quote from the BarryWehmiller website sums up their philosophy nicely: “We measure our success by the way we touch the lives of others, and that comes through in everything we do.”

I admire these people because they have created outstanding businesses while demonstrating a deep respect for people.

I will not change the world the way that Jobs, Bezos and Musk have, but I’ll be happy if my family, friends, and colleagues say that the world is better because I was here.