Role Model vs Modeling Someone

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Sometime back I was having a discussion with a colleague about having a Role Model vs Modeling someone. He was of the opinion that there is no difference between both. Though I knew there is a huge fundamental difference, we chose to agree to disagree and end the argument there.

If you are a woman (or even a man) who grew up dreaming about a flourishing career and doing exceptionally well in your professional life in the ’90s and 2000’s you would have definitely idolized Chanda Kochhar, the former MD and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank. A solitary woman, in the man’s world of finance holding the highest position in one of the largest and most popular banks in India. That’s some kind of an unachievable feat she managed to achieve. Naturally, a lot of us made her our role model. Every time she was on the cover page of a business magazine we took pride in it. Every time we saw her poised self on TV, we keenly observed her and vowed to imitate her. We said success shouldn’t make you arrogant, and you should be just like her.

Fast forward to 2019, 24th of Jan, a report comes on a leading newspaper, she and a few others were booked by CBI for cheating and defrauding ICICI bank. Immediately, a million dreams were shattered. On 30th Jan the news came out ICICI bank has terminated her (she resigned in 2018), and will be taking back her bonuses, ESOPS, and many other financial privileges… so many people were heartbroken and disappointed in seeing their fallen role model. How can she do such things?

This is exactly where the difference starts between a Role Model and Modeling someone. The dictionary meaning of role model says “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.”

This means when people make someone their role model they tend to see them in totality, how they behave, how they talk, what they do, where they live, where they go, what they wear blah blah, blah… People start imitating the entire life of their role models. People put them on a higher pedestal, treat them like demigods. People think they are just perfect, devoid of any flaws. Therefore refuse to accept that they too can have flaws. They too can make mistakes, they too can be incomplete and incompetent in many ways, they too may have problems in their own lives, which they may be struggling to cope with. Which is why many are baffled with Chanda Kochhar’s recent fall.

Then, how is Modeling different? The fundamental rule of modelling is you DO NOT model the person, you model only the BEST (Belief, Emotions, Strategies and Thinking) of a person for a particular behaviour that you wish to emulate. No matter today Chanda Kochhar is a fallen role model (well, in the eyes of many), she did something right to climb up to the top position of a huge bank like ICICI from being a mere Management Trainee! That too, being a woman, in a world that was termed as ‘Man’s World’! No one can take away her achievements, her strengths, her beliefs and her strategies from her, even if they take away her money… and guess what? It was her BEST that worked in her favour to position her at the top!

When we model someone instead of making them a role model, we keep aside their shortcomings and only focus on the great things they have achieved. We look for what we can gain from their BEST, also see them as human beings, just the way we are; full of flaws, mistakes and failures. We stop being disappointed with them for being full of flaws, mistakes, failures and frauds, as we now believe every human being comes with flaws and no one is perfect! We only and only concentrate on the behaviour we want to emulate to get ahead in life, looking for their BEST for that behaviour… Therefore their wrongdoings don’t deter us from pursuing our BEST!

So, what do you do when you see a high achiever? Do you model them or make them your role model? I would love to hear your perspectives, share your comments below.

DISCLAIMER: I do not have any personal connection with Chanda Kochhar, neither do I support any wrongdoings. Her example was taken simply to drive a point home, keeping in mind the timing of the reports.

Her career-related facts were picked up from Wikipedia. I do not take responsibility for the authenticity of these facts.  


Want to know more about how to model someone? Send me an email at with your name, email address and phone number. I will respond back to you at the earliest.

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Author | Professional Speaker