Role Model or Mentor: Whitby Martial Arts

Defining a mentor and a role model

Lines between being a role model and mentor often blur.  To be a mentor is to participate in a prearranged role where one assumes the responsibly of fostering and building the core professional skills of a trainee.  A mentor is one that models, coaches, and facilitates a trainee’s performance as a professional.


To be a mentor is to function as a role model within your given profession.  Research on mentoring indicates that a mentor should:


  • be nurturing
  • be a role model
  • function as teacher, sponsor, encourager, counselor and friend
  • focus on the professional development of the mentee
  • sustain a caring relationship over time
















There are three large differences between a role model and a mentor:


 1. Mentors are individuals that can help you with the “operational” aspects of life and role models are more there to help set the standard “aspirational” aspects. In many instances, a mentor is someone who has decided to help you out, whether it is formally or through their own interest in you. They do not necessarily share a passion you are interested in or a life path that you would like to follow. However, a good mentor takes the time to understand what you would like to do and they make an investment in leveraging their time and resources to helping you achieve your goal. Most often, mentors act out of reciprocation – someone was there to provide them with guidance growing up and they would like to give forward the support or opportunity they had. The most successful people that I have crossed paths  with have a good distribution of both (role-model and mentor)


mentor2. Mentoring requires a relationship, one that is often mutually beneficial, whereas with role models that isn’t the case. When someone becomes a mentor or meets with you frequently enough to provide you with support, they are also usually learning in the process. The time spent together drives the learning that takes place. Also, role models can be individuals you never meet your entire life. The thing that drives the role model relationship is the desire to accomplish or to be like the individual being looked up to for replication.


3. Mentors are usually assigned or forge relationships that are built or happen over time but role models are chosen. What makes the two relationships really different is that with a mentor, both parties have an understanding that the relationship exists or is being built. That is not the case with role models. In other words, you can identify a role model and they may not ever even know you exist. Since role models don’t have to know “you”, they can also be individuals who are no longer alive.


Despite their differences, the terms role model and mentor are often interchanged.  This may be due to their shared goal of fostering the development of another.  Yes, both roles have the common goal of guiding a trainee in their professional development, and coaching them through their journey.  Each role may also serve to challenge the trainee, evaluate their performance, or offer advice.  However, there exists a different tone between these relationship.  Most obvious are the differences in the goals and benefits of these relationships, their duration, the socialization process, the support for learning and feedback given.  Simply put, a mentor is more of an authoritative figure while a role model acts more like an older sibling.



mentorCan these lines ever be blurred?

Should they be blurred?  If so, when is it appropriate to play this dual role?  Furthermore, how do you juggle between the two?  Playing this dual role can be tricky.  As a role model there is a responsibility to evaluate the trainee, and provide constructive feedback to further their growth.  But as a mentor there is an expectation that you offer support and advice in how to handle even the worst of situations.  Is it possible to provide necessary criticism while being supportive?


In my experience, it can be difficult for both the role model / mentor to have this overlapping relationship.  From the trainee’s perspective, it is difficult to maintain a goal-oriented working relationship with a role model, and then switch modes and disclose personal thoughts and feelings to that person.  In addition to identifying when it is appropriate to have a mentoring discussion, it is also difficult to reveal your weaknesses and frustrations (or even pleasant feelings) to a person who will be evaluating your performance.  From the role model’s perspective, it must be difficult to transition between nonjudgmental casual conversations to formal discussions and evaluations of the trainee’s performance.  Although it may be possible to carry this dual role, it requires a certain degree of balance and experience.


Nonetheless, the benefit of having a mentoring relationship with a student outweighs the risk of blurring the line between being a role model or a mentor.  There is much to gain.  There are opportunities to exchange ideas, improve training satisfaction, and build a mutually beneficial relationship.


Learning to be an effective role model requires nothing less than continued self-improvement and a mentor requires consistent training and understanding to develop successful and positive experiences.  I would encourage everyone to view themselves as another’s role model and mentors to have an open exchange with their trainees about expectations, and even seek advice from more experienced mentors. Choosing the right role models can give tremendous motivation to achieve your goals and be the best you can be. Having the right mentors can have an invaluable and tremendously positive impact on the quality of your life.





I believe it is safe to say that we need both a mentor and a role model in our lives. It is also important to note that a mentor can also be a role model or someone you aspire to be like, but that does not necessarily have to be the case. Additionally, a role model can also be a mentor but they do not necessarily have to be that same person or ideal.

I hope that this blog helps shed light on some of the differences for you so that you may continue to develop happy and healthy relationships that will aid you in your personal and professional development. I am also hopeful that all of my students realize that they will be looked at as potential role models, leaders and mentors. You should be the best version of yourself you can be so you can live your best life and in turn, increase the quality of others lives by leading by example. You do affect others around you whether you want to or not. Lets make a positive impact on our community, our peers and our children.








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