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Role Models

The Importance of Having an Anti-Role Model

The people you don't want to be like have just as much to teach you as the ones you wish you were.
The Importance of Having an Anti-Role Model
Image credit: gremlin | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Entrepreneur and Connector
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Take a moment and think about your childhood. Who were the people you admired and looked-up-to? Did they inspire and motivate you? Have they shaped who you are as a person today?

Growing up there were a handful of people that I idealized. Some of the people I considered greats were my grandfather, eighth-grade social studies teacher and superstars like Micheal Jordan -- just to name a few "greats" who come to mind.

I honestly believe that I’m the person I am today because these individuals helped me determine my moral compass, find my passion and learn that with hard work and dedication you can accomplish anything. Even in adulthood there are people worth considering as role models. The person could be a fellow entrepreneur or a successful person you read about, like Bill Gates. The admired one could be a leader such as a past president, mentor or coach that you met at university or someone at a conference.

Related: 4 Role Models Who Inspire Girls to Pursue Tech Careers

Different types of role models may help you most.

As pointed in a Forbes article, there isn’t just one type of role model. There are three models we should have in lives:

The Positive Role Model. We think of these when we are discussing role models. They are the people who not only inspire you. They also guide you, motivate you to reach your full potential and help define what our morals and ethics are.

Reverse Role Models. These are people who you might respect because of what they’ve accomplished. But, they also possess flaws that you don’t agree with. Now that I’m older, I’m still amazed at what Jordan did on the court and in business. But, I’m not a fan of some of the things he’s done in his personal life.

Anti-Role Models. Here is someone whose footsteps you never want to follow. Maybe it’s because you don’t agree with their ethics or the fact they haven't reached their goals.

What could you possibly learn from anti-role models? A lot. These "anti-role models" can help you become successful by avoiding disastrous pitfalls in your career and life.  Here are the other ways that having an anti-role model can be beneficial.

Related: Women Entrepreneurs Hardly Have Role Models and Mentors

You take the good, and you take the bad.

When I start my career, I worked with someone who could hustle -- when he was “on.” I respected the fact that he had no problems networking and cold-calling potential clients. On his good days, he could crush it. He could put-in 12 hour days with no problem and had the self-discipline to tune-out distractions.

When he wasn’t in game mode, it was a completely different story. There were days when he had zero ambition and went golfing instead of closing a deal. He also looked for shortcuts with clients, like black hat SEO tactics. Most alarming, he could get real nasty when a client didn’t agree with him and that, obviously, burnt a lot of bridges.

What I learned from this person was that the only way to make things happen is to get out there and do the work. Opportunities aren’t just magically going to fall in your lap. At the same, I couldn’t get behind the other parts of his work ethic -- namely being inconsistent, his shadiness and not treating others with respect.

Related: First-Time Entrepreneurs: 5 Ways of Identifying Role Models for Success from Within

Helps you grow as a person.

An anti-role model will help you grow as a person. If you don’t like how they belittle customers or employees, then that can assist you when establishing your own culture that’s friendly and encourages everyone to share their opinions.

Understanding these types of situations can also influence you outside of work. That work acquaintance I mentioned often got short with his friends and family. I found that unacceptable and never wanted to be that type of person. While there have been many times when I’m upset at someone -- I always calm down before chewing them out.

Learn from their mistakes.

Failure sucks but it's also one of the best ways to learn and grow. Many examples are laying around in all parts of life so that you don’t have just examine your own failures. Just look at how some other people have failed and do a little reverse modeling.

For example, I was a big fan of Elon Musk. Tesla is a great product and his time blocking method is a reliable way for effectively managing your time. However, I’m not a proponent of some of the erratic behavior he demonstrated in 2018, like his social media rants.

I still think he’s a genius and is doing some incredible work. Heck, I currently own my second Tesla But, I’ve learned not how to act on social media, as well as how to treat journalists, investors and employees. Maybe Elon acts-out because he’s working a grueling 120 hours per week. Learn to schedule your time appropriately so you can be personally optimized.

Related: 6 Top Mistakes New Entrepreneurs Make and What to Do Instead

Forces you to stand up for yourself (and your teammates).

Let’s say that you worked with someone who has acquired the attributes of a bully. Besides helping you grow an extra layer of skin, it also encourages you to stand up for yourself. This extra layer of skin doesn’t mean sinking to their level and acting the same way, nor adopting any of their behaviors. Getting-a-thick-skin implies that you aren’t going to get pushed around.

This "anti" may be yelling at you because they think you've made an error. Calmly point out to them that you had nothing to do with the incident. These accusers may not listen to you -- but, at least you’ve told them your side of the story in a professional manner. In taking responsibility for your own behavior, it may be best to move on to greener pastures, should this toxic behavior continue.

The same principle holds for the people you care about or work around. Maybe your co-founder is screaming at their assistant until they’re on the verge of tears. Although you don’t want to fight other people’s battles or insert yourself in uncomfortable situations -- that assistant may not feel it’s appropriate to point out that their superior’s behavior is unacceptable. Because you’re a co-founder -- you’re in a better position to stand-up for the assistant. Remaining professional, you will speak to your co-founder in private as an example of correct business practices.

Enhances your emotional intelligence.

I’ve noticed that the anti-role models in my life share a common thread: they lack emotional intelligence. Some of them only talk about themselves and rarely listen to what other people have to say. Others are indecisive, impulsive or lack empathy. Then there are the people who have no control over their emotions. There is never any shame in feeling any emotion, but we have the self-responsibility to model ethical conduct in business.

Poor behavioral choices carry consequences -- those individuals will not be as successful, productive or respected as they otherwise would. As I watch some disasters of situational handling in management styles, I strive to be the polar opposite and steadily work on my own EI. Although I’ve been doing this for the last couple of years -- this remains a work in progress. It takes time for you to be the best you can be.

Related: Why Emotional Intelligence Is Crucial for Success (Infographic)

Fills in the gaps.

Here’s another quick experiment. Reflect on all the role models you’ve had in your life. When you think about it, the people you watched when you were younger weren't “perfect.” We all have flaws; it’s a part of the human condition.

When you consider these pieces of life, the light bulb may off. You can probably identify more anti-role models than positive ones. I learn as much or more from my anti-role models -- while searching for a person I want to emulate, personally and professionally.

Makes you realize that some people are just rotten.

Sometimes anti-role models are misunderstood. Everyone has varying degrees of saturation in life's games. Someone could merely be going through a rough patch that has brought out the worst in them. Working to keep yourself in the higher range of the emotional intelligence scale -- you’ll be able to understand the trajectories and plateau's in life. You'll begin to recognize a severe character flaw -- and someone who is overworked and overwhelmed. However, you also need to come to terms with the fact that some people are just toxic.

These venomous persons are generally negative, detrimental and not supportive -- and they stir up trouble. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in your power to help these people; they're just nasty people. The only resolution is to distance yourself from them and surround yourself with people who are positive and share the same values as you do.

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