Don’t Think Leader. Think Role Model

Those who have invested the most are the last to surrender.’

Vince Lombardi, American football coach

One of the most hotly debated topics in our workshops is culture. It is hardly surprising.

Culture is the most fascinating artefact of any business; it defines attitude, shapes mindset and can either inspire or demotivate in equal amounts.

But culture is also elusive, intangible and unassailable, yet can smack you in the face when you least expect it.

A couple of years ago when setting up a new product development team in the pensions  industry, I was speaking to an interviewee whom we had invited back for a third interview and asked him ‘what opinion have you formed of the company so far.’ His answer was illuminating: ‘every time I sit in Reception, I hear someone laughing, it’s a place I’d like to work.’

It was then I fully realised what an energising working environment that we had. It was the most pressurised I had worked in for some time, but by far the most fulfilling.

Despite working to incredibly tight deadlines, attempting to build a product that was revolutionary in financial services with the challenges such an initiative entailed, we had great laughs!

Laughter was the benchmark of a healthy and vibrant culture characterised by shared values and a compelling, common purpose.

But laughter was also representative of much more.

These thoughts came to mind recently when reading ‘The Captain Class’ by Sam Walker which is an excellent read on what makes a successful leader in our contemporary world.

In the book, Walker describes the concept of ‘social loafing’ first highlighted by the French engineer Maximilien Ringelmann in 1913 to describe the fact that often when you add numbers to a team, rather than amplifying the power of individuals, the act of contributing as a team actually causes every one else to contribute less to the overall effort.

However, this phenomenon can be counteracted by adding someone to the team whose tenacity and presence are such that it galvanises others to contribute more than before, these are the qualities that characterise a true leader:

“The captains of the greatest teams in sports history had an unflagging commitment to playing at their maximum capability. Although they were rarely superior athletes, they demonstrated an extreme level of doggedness in competition, and in their conditioning and preparation. They also put pressure on their teammates to continue competing even when victory was all but assured.”

In short, such people kept nothing in reserve. They are the antithesis of the social loafer, they are role models whose extra mile mindset mobilises others to give their best.

Role models are the individuals who make a culture come alive. They determine the dominant attitude, their positive and caring behaviour becomes contagious.

Not seeking the limelight, they are happy for others to take centre stage. They inspire and understand that in serving, they lead. They realise that leaders and followers are not static roles, they are happy for others to take the reins when circumstance dictate.

Ultimately, role models are the soul and substance of a healthy culture, they focus on optimising performance rather than concentrating upon the accommodation of ego.

In short, they are nice to work alongside, what better complement to make to anyone? They truly are the ones who invest the most and who are the last to surrender.

Nice to know that the personal trainers that graduate from our HPT5 specialist course deliver such an impact:

So next time, if you want to lead, don’t think leader, think role model first.


 Haydn is Service Leadership Director at HPT5

Stop Press! We are holding an Open Evening on Wednesday, November 22nd at Richmond Upon Thames College where we will be showcasing our content for the HPT5 Specialist Course providing insights into Biomechanics, Body Mapping and Injury Management together with commercial insights into building a compelling niche business.

Full details here: