Looking for Business Role Models? Be Wary Of Celebrity CEOs With social media, where our youth spend most of their time, the loudest voices, or the most popular ones, are not always the best examples to follow.

By Helen Al Uzaizi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Watching my two daughters grow up, I have seen my fair share of role models go in and out of their lives. From musicians and actors, to athletes and politicians, each of these role models have left an impression on them throughout their childhood and adolescence- some for good, and others not.

This, however, got me thinking about the role models youth take on from high school, university years, and later in life, especially in the entrepreneurship community. Upon closer inspection, we see a massive gap between the behavior shown by so-called "celebrity CEOs," and what truly makes a good leader. This gap may lead a lot of up-and-coming entrepreneurs astray. Indeed, this type of behavior that young entrepreneurs look up to may end up hurting your business, friends, or even family.

Let's examine a few of these behaviors, and what we should be looking for in positive entrepreneurial role models instead.


Leadership isn't about "my way, or the highway," it's about creating other leaders. We may view some CEOs as strong-willed leaders, pushing ahead with projects or innovations others said weren't worth it, or yelling "You're fired!" if people get in their way. They fight tooth and nail to push through what they want, and everybody has to get in line.

While this sounds poetic and heroic, this may be the worst way to run a business or a startup in the real world, and a surefire way to demotivate your team. As a business grows, the people you bring on -and how you empower them to meet the challenges you are trying to solve- can make or break your business. Furthermore, the people you bring on eventually need to grow to become leaders in their own right to hire people for their teams, and contribute to the sustainability of your operation.

Keeping that in mind, when looking for a role model, youth should seek leaders who build up other leaders. Building up other leaders conveys wisdom, strategic foresight, and a genuinely trustworthy personality that people can rally behind. This is the kind of leadership and role model that future entrepreneurs and young people need to learn from. This is the type of positive behavior that builds up stronger ecosystems.

Related: A Life Well Lived: Sudha Murty, Founder And Chairperson, Infosys Foundation


It's easy to confuse popularity with capability. For all the news about the big tech darlings and famous unicorn companies with their flashy CEOs, thousands, if not millions, of other companies are growing successfully, and quietly going about their business. Just because a CEO has the loudest platform doesn't mean their ideas are worth listening to, or that their behavior is worth modeling. The spotlight is brief, and it can often be unkind in the long run, so young people and future entrepreneurs should also look within their communities for role models. This could also be an opportunity to connect with them as mentors, and have them give you more applicable advice than random tweets or soundbites from other CEOs.

There are many examples of great leadership close to home that young people need to be aware of, such as those leading companies like Careem or Tarjama. Even the stories of Souq.com, or how Aramex grew over the years, are shining positive examples for youth in the region.

Moreover, just because someone is famous for doing one thing does not necessarily mean they can do something else well. Only some ventures of celebrity entrepreneurs end up doing well. Just because they were good in one business area does not make them geniuses in another industry. Buying the hype of one person does not mean their success is easily transferable to another area. That's why future entrepreneurs should try to look for people working in similar fields, who can provide more appropriate queues and relevant lessons within their industry.

Related: The First Step to Becoming a Leader: Believing You Can Be One


The bigger your company grows, the less it becomes about you as a person, and more about the systems you put in place, and the people you empower to run things. The founder must set the company's tone, values, and direction in the early stage of a company. However, as the company grows, the founder's role becomes less critical, and more value is placed on systems, processes, and people. Not only do new investors and funders limit a founder's authority, but more people have a say in the running of the business.

Hanging on to power past this point could lead to conflict and mismanagement. We see this in the number of founders of big companies who have stepped aside to let other CEOs run their businesses. We have also seen many boards oust the founder, and replace the management. Hanging on to power touches on our first point of nurturing other leaders. A leader who knows when it's time to hand over the reins to the right people is the type of role model young entrepreneurs need. If you want to see what you have built continue to grow long after establishing it, you need to learn to let go. This also hits on the values of teamwork, empowering others, and fostering strong communities and cultures.

We need to be careful who we look up to nowadays. With social media, where our youth spend most of their time, the loudest voices, or the most popular ones, are not always the best examples to follow. Instead, youth should look to those who are extraordinarily humble and who quietly persevere through challenges. They may not be in the news or on social media as much, but they are out there.

Related: Starting Young: Developing A Culture Of Entrepreneurship

Helen Al Uzaizi

CEO, BizWorld Middle East, and founder, Future Entrepreneurs

Helen Al-Uzaizi is the CEO of BizWorld Middle East, the region's leading entrepreneurship program for kids. She is also the founder of Future Entrepreneurs, an entrepreneurship education platform for the MENA region.

Related Topics

Business News

Airbnb Renter Discovers Hidden Door, Says Police Confirm There's a Secret Unit Upstairs With 'Surveillance': 'A Terrifying Experience'

One bride-to-be was in for a not-so-welcome surprise when she discovered a secret door in her Airbnb rental.


How to Balance What Technology Has to Offer Without Forgetting the Benefits of Face-to-Face Communication

The best way to communicate a message should be the one that facilitates reaching the ends we want to achieve.

Growth Strategies

Following A Management-Led Buyout Of All Equity Held By Its Previous Investor, UAE-Born Fitness Brand GymNation Is All Set For A New Phase Of Growth

GymNation co-founder and CEO Loren Holland shares his vision for the UAE-born business to play a lead role as the GCC region's movement partner.

Business News

Want to Start a Billion-Dollar Business? Look to These Two Industries, Which Have the Most Unicorn Growth

During a tough fundraising year overall last year, the value of cybersecurity and AI unicorns saw double-digit growth.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Growing a Business

How to Regain Your Passion for Your Business — And How to Keep It Alive

Is your passion fading? Here's how to create a business model centered around keeping your passion alive and well.