January 18, 2018

You are a role model. Make the best of it as a student leader.

Tom Baker - Get Involed - Community Service - Civic Leadership 002

Everyone in your campus club, team, or organization is a role model. All members of your group play a special part in ensuring that your members and constituencies are served efficiently and effectively. As a student leader, it is vital for you to remain mindful of the fact that your fellow students look up to and are watching your behaviors and interactions all of the time. They are not solely observing your behaviors when you are consulting or running a meeting or managing a campus service event. They are observing you not only when you are at your top moments of professionalism but also in the moments when you let down your guard.

The first community organization that I got involved with when I completed my undergraduate studies was Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). I was matched with my little brother, Preston, when he was 10. Preston had spent a minimal amount of time with his father, who was in and out of incarceration, and was signed up for BBBS by his mother and grandmother. At the time I was Director of a daycare in Lancaster County and had just completed a service oriented college experience, most recently as Student Body President for two terms.

Unfortunately, I had a negative habit that started in college. When I went out to eat at fast food restaurants, which is a bad habit in its own right, I would order a glass of water and walk directly over to the pop machine to fill my glass with Diet Pepsi. This might not be the worst habit any of you reading this blog have heard of, but it was still bad and unethical – in fact, it was stealing.

One night I dropped off Preston at his house and his mother, Holly, came out to welcome us. After Preston went inside she began to tell me about Preston’s progress. He was doing well in school, playing hard at soccer, interacting great with friends, and his morale was increasing. However, she had noticed something new within Preston that was not a positive tendency. When he was going out to eat with them, Preston was ordering a glass of water but instead filling his cup with iced tea. Holly asked, “Could you talk to Preston about it?”

I was of course horrified by this conversation and so embarrassed that my behavior was rubbing off on Preston in a negative way. He was internalizing some of the positive habits that he was observing in me but also directly internalizing one of my worst tendencies as well.

As leaders in your campus communities and organizations it is important to be mindful of your “pop stealing” moments. These traits likely are not on the fore front of your mind but could be something that others that you work with are noticing and discussing the cafeteria or in your residence hall.

If you are taking shortcuts, others might notice, and assume they can get away with it as well. Even worse, your actions could be hurting your credibility and your overall ability to motivate and inspire others to work hard and get the job done.

No matter what former basketball star Charles Barkely and other celebrities say, we are most definitely all role models to someone. This can hold true within work and also in our personal lives as well. Our classmates need for us to behave admirably not just when we are in the limelight, but all of the time. So often it is the seemingly small things that can tarnish our reputations and therefore our likelihood to lead effectively in our experiences on campus and in our professional lives.

It is possible that while you read this blog a negative habit or trait from a former boss or professor came to mind. Make sure to carefully consider and then hopefully eliminate any comparable tendencies you may have. These little differences and changes could make a world of difference in your ability to motivate and manage your team.

I should also note that I proudly cheered on Preston as he graduated with honors from McCaskey High School on June 10, 2010 in Lancaster, PA. His family and I jumped, clapped, and hugged our way through the night with great pride for Preston. He is starting his collegiate studies this fall at Franklin and Marshall College as a sophomore and is playing soccer.

And for the record: Preston and I both now happily pay for our drinks when we go out to eat!

Learn more about this topic from Tom on

“Making the best of yourself as a role model”

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Since the release of Get Involved! Making the Most of Your 20s and 30s in February 2008 Tom Baker has spoken with over 17,500 students and civic leaders at over 100 colleges, companies, and community organizations and inspired thousands to give back and make a difference. As a college speaker and former student body and fraternity president during his college days, Tom shares a terrific set of stories and proven strategies with students and inspires them to GET INVOLVED! WebsiteFacebookTwitterEmailAmazon


  1. Good post. We are all definitely role models (like it or not). I too encourage people to be the anti-charles barkley. its amazing how little we understand our influence on our peers and those that look up to us. Being a role model boils down to people doing what they do and doing it so well that others want to emulate. The big question boils down to what are you doing well?

  2. Great post Tom. It’s all about integrity and strong character. As I wrote in a post not too long ago, you have to always act like the microphone is on. http://blog.thinqaction.com/2011/04/the-mic-is-always-on/

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