When we consider the influence of others on our learning, there are two kinds of people who are critically important to learn from: role models and teachers.
Teach, Role Model or Get out of the Way
Role models are those who DO things in a way that we aspire to do them ourselves. Sometimes we call them heroes or examples, but I like to think of them as roles models. The thing to do with role models is to study them to understand how they operate and what drives them.
Teachers are those who can SHOW others how to do what they aspire to do. Great teachers are skilled in techniques to help other people learn to behave and perform in new and different ways. Teachers can show up as managers, friends, parents, peers, and many other places. Sometimes they even have formal roles like trainers or mentors.
It’s important to know the difference. Role models are great to observe and to study, but they may not be able to personally teach you a thing if that’s not a skill they possess. They may not even know why they are a role model or how they became one. They just do things that are inspiring to learn from.
Teachers, on the other hand, are skilled at sharing information and promoting learning, but they may not be role models (and they don’t need to be). I’ve seen many sales trainers in my life who were tremendous teachers, but who failed when they were asked to actually sell. Teachers often are good role models, but they don’t have to be.
It’s when we confuse the two that we get in trouble. A role model who can’t teach is a terrible mentor (but we make them mentors all the time). A teacher’s expertise gets discounted because they can’t perform as a role model (which in most cases has no bearing on their ability on their effectiveness as a teacher). Learn to recognize the difference. Both are critical to our growth.