I think this was probably one of those "missing pieces" for me, and you've nailed it down. Raised in a Christian upbringing, I think I associate being a "good role model" with somehow being an "instrument of god." One of the things I initially liked (yet misunderstood) about Buddhism was the emphasis on individual effort in practice - you don't depend on god or priest ultimately, because in the end, as much as a teacher can guide you, only you alone can reach enlightenment for yourself. And as I've moved away from Christianity I think I took what I interpreted as Buddhism's "live and let live" ethos too far. I also have a tendency to associate being an example for others with being arrogant, i.e. "Who am I to be a role model for someone else? I'm flawed and imperfect." But I don't have to be arrogant to strive for this, especially when I know I won't always succeed.
Thus, our Buddhist Practice also manifests Compassion just when people can take Buddhist practitioners as models and teachers of peace, happiness and contentment, and learn to bring such ways into their own lives. Your peaceful, non-violent and loving conduct teaches people merely by their seeing something in your eyes and bearing as you deal with friends, family members and strangers each day. I think.