Women, lead without losing yourself in the process

executive-510490_1920Do you believe that ‘you’ are your greatest asset? It is your ‘self’  that others connect with, trust and get inspired by.

Yet we do not acknowledge and harness what we innately have, to leverage success. Instead we try to impress, to act and be like others because we want to fit in, to meet their perceived expectations or leadership image.

What a disservice we do to ourselves when:

  • we adopt a masculine style to show that we are tough
  • lessening our feminine or softer side
  • we fail to recognise or use our power
  • put on a façade when we are at work

I remember early in my career being called aloof, hard-nosed and impersonal. Whilst I was not trying to act like someone else, I came across as a different person to my true self. My exterior façade was my way of coping, of hiding my insecurities and fears. I born in another country, from a poor background, part of generation that never went to university or even had a TV! I didn’t want others to know the real me. I rarely talked about myself or let others get close to me.

I know from experience that keeping up appearances is hard work. It takes a lot of energy and effort to be and act like some else especially when they are out of sync with your core values, style and characteristics. How much better would it be to channel that energy into acts that are congruent with who you are?

You are awesome as you are. Be bold and have the courage to let your true self shine through. Work on being the best version of yourself

Some ways that have helped me and my clients become authentic include:

Being clear on your values and purpose

Invest in the time to find out what your values and guiding principles are. What do you stand for? What are you willing to raise your head above the parapet for? What guides your actions and behaviours? What makes you tick, your heart sing?

Our values act as a compass and a guide in how we live our lives, prioritise and spend our time. You don’t need to tell others what your values are, they should see them demonstrated in how you behave, work and live your life.

Values are fundamental in helping us to make tough choices and trade offs such as balancing work and personal life, switching careers, having children, progressing a career with children….

When you are clear on your values and your purpose, the direction ahead becomes much more focused, meaningful and helps us to forge ahead in times of difficulty. You will be less worried about how you appear to others and more resolute on what must be done to accomplish the outcomes you desire.

Being open to being vulnerable

It’s not easy being the person that you want to be. Sometimes we let fear and anxieties shape our choices. It’s a way of protecting ourselves. But at the same time they hold us back.

Being ‘you’ will challenge you and take you outside of you comfort zone, testing your resilience and principles. This may mean leaving yourself open to vulnerability.

Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, is quoted as saying, “The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability…”

Being your real self, admitting that you don’t have the answer or have failed are not signs of weaknesses but of strength. It takes courage to leave the ego behind, to put aside pretences and show your true self.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. Brene Brown

Showing your true self does not mean divulging your stories of your struggles, hardships and personal stories to one and all. It’s about sharing appropriate material to build trust, emotional connection, vicarious learning, to inspire and build collaboration.

It must be relevant to context and situation and pitched at the right time. As Brown suggest, share honest information that will leave you vulnerable only with people who have earned the right to hear about it.

Being clear on how others see you and your strengths

An essential part of self awareness is getting feedback on how others see you. Solicit honest feedback from others such as your colleagues, peers, boss and take proactive steps to manage any perceived gaps.

Don’t just focus on areas for development. Find ways to use your strengths on a daily basis to increase your happiness, satisfaction, flow, engagement and performance

Remember that you are unique and acknowledge that we are all different with our set of strengths, talents and gifts. Start leveraging yours and stop comparing yourself to others 

Being flexible and add styles to your toolkit

Organisations are dynamic and in a constant state of flux with different scenarios being played out and as such leaders need to be able to flex and adapt their style to the situation, the context and the audience that they are dealing with, regardless of gender.

Experiment and find a range of styles that feel congruent with who you are, your values and will help you to accomplish your goals and purpose.

Be proactive in asking for and taking on new assignments, tasks and projects. This will stretch you and provide different experiences, exposure and audiences helping you to add a range of styles to your tool kit.

Become the person who inspires, who role models the behaviours and actions that others want to follow 

Image courtesy of Pixabay 


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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