I’ve always been terrible at picking role models. I think it’s because I genuinely admire pretty much every person I meet, even if it’s just a small quality in them. I try to surround myself with people who only add to my life and my work.
Still, tracking down at least one “above all” role model seemed like the best way to pin down my leadership style.
I started with the obvious: my parents, maybe? No, they were far too integrated in my life. Even though they are role models, I didn’t choose them (though I’m pretty lucky).
Should I admire a journalist? While I certainly admire the work of many of my peers and seniors, I’ve never had a fellow journo who I’ve really wanted to guide my life.
The answer wasn’t so logical. However, the person who is my leadership role model, and has always been someone I’ve admired, is Jane Goodall.
Yes, I know, this is strange. I’ve never wanted to be a scientist, much less a primatologist. But Goodall has always been a source of inspiration to me.
At age 26 Goodall ventured into Gombe National Park in Tanzania to study chimpanzees. It was the mid-1960s, and women were just starting to revolutionize the field of primatology. Goodall’s research on chimps was groundbreaking: she was one of the first researchers to see the full breadth of relationships and personalities the apes could have. There was the good (kissing, family relationships) and the bad (cannibalism, war). Most importantly, she saw them create and use tools. Previously, it was thought that only humans could do that. In her study of chimps, Goodall redefined what it meant to be human.
While Goodall still visits Gombe to do research, her focus has broadened. She is a leading conservation advocate. Her Roots and Shoots program encourages children worldwide to volunteer and take care of the environment. The Jane Goodall Foundation works in Tanzania and Uganda to not only help chimps by protecting forest lands, but also humans through providing scholarships to girls, building health clinics and starting micro loan projects. Goodall is a fierce advocate for leaving the world a better place for future generations. You can see some of her passion in this TED talk.
In her work and life Goodall has embodied many traits I hope to emulate:
Her curiosity, intelligence and compassion helped revolutionize science. Her compassion, generosity and humility led her to use her fame to advocate for the environment, animals and people. And her vision has led her to see into the future, and the importance of preserving earth for those future generations.
I hope I can apply all these traits (with my own unique personality mixed in) to my own life, in journalism and otherwise. I want to leave the world a better place than I left it, or at least one person’s life a little lighter.