Climbing out of my snow hole, I received a letter from home. This was no mean feat as I was somewhere in the Arctic Circle and about a month into a winter deployment with 3 Commando Brigade.  It was the news I had dreamed of from Joyce– we were going to have a baby!

I never doubted for one moment we were going to have a daughter.  After all, in our Squadron, the other guy’s wives had had daughters, (I once read a scientific article, too detailed to go into; that runners fathered girls.  We were all athletes so we were all happy with that reasoning)!

We had dreamed of having a daughter and that she would be confident, kind, humorous, positive, creative and talented with strong and independent opinions/ views on her world.  Jennifer is all this and more.  What we hadn’t considered or talked about was that she would be a role model.

I am not sure Jennifer ever consciously decided to be a role model for her younger sister Bettina.  I suppose none of us set out to be a model for others; but it is a role that Jennifer has assumed from an early age.  By her very nature Jennifer has always been a leader for Bettina; who is very vulnerable (as you would expect for someone who copes with a learning disability and autism).  Jennifer is Bettina’s hero.  She adores her and watches everything she does, as she looks for clues in how to manoeuvre through life’s mazes.

As leaders, whether we realise it or not, we are role models for others.  As leaders, I believe we must live our lives role modelling our behaviour.  As Jennifer is a perfect role model for Bettina, I have used her model as an example.

What does a Role Model look like?

Jennifer’s Model, in 10:

  1. There are no days off from being a role model. You are being observed constantly!
  2. As Jennifer doesn’t take a day off – she doesn’t expect you to either
  3. From being a young girl, Jennifer has always looked out for the ‘under dog’
  4. Jennifer is always respectful to others – it doesn’t matter to her whether they can do anything for her or not
  5. Jennifer has empathy – she tries to see the world through your eyes
  6. Jennifer has a strong work ethic and does everything with passion and enthusiasm
  7. Jennifer’s verbal communication is considered and she always strikes the right tone
  8. Random acts of kindness are a regular thing for Jennifer
  9. Jennifer constantly seeks to grow as a person and as a role model and because of this those around her do too (not just Bettina but also her Dad!)
  10. Jennifer has an unconditional love for Bettina

Leadership qualities I have learned from Jennifer, in 10:

  1. She prioritises other people’s needs before her own
  2. She is an advocate for Bettina – she speaks up on her behalf and represents her wishes when Bettina cannot
  3. Jennifer has her own code of conduct and values which are individual to her. She is always consistent with her code
  4. Jennifer takes her role seriously – her image and how people see her has always been important to her
  5. Jennifer is courageous. She feels fear but perseveres anyway and it is because of this that Bettina acts with courage too.  (I am constantly amazed at the new things Bettina will attempt because she has seen her role model do them first).
  6. When you are in a position of responsibility you are a role model; your example will always have an impact and so it is important to choose well and be consistent
  7. Jennifer has a strong work commitment and ethic. For Jennifer it is not about getting to the next stage in her career. Instead it’s about doing the very best for those she comes into contact with – her family, friends and her work colleagues
  8. Jennifer gives her loyalty to you first
  9. Jennifer never follows current trends or the latest vogue; rather she sets them. She never follows the crowd
  10. She does not impose her views or opinions on you. (And I wouldn’t dare impose mine on her!)

This morning, as Bettina collected her bag and put on her coat to leave with her Personal Assistant to work at the local Garden Centre, she looked for Jennifer (who was in kitchen). When she found her she rushed towards her for a hug and a kiss.  It is often the last thing she does before she leaves home; it is always a must for her.  Why? Because in Bettina’s eyes  Jennifer is her world.