In the current climate it’s more important than ever before that leaders and managers are authentic, because individuals prefer to be led by people that have empathy, are transparent, compassionate, have good listening skills and are someone they can trust and respect.
Being the boss is never easy, but it's twice as hard for women. Society may have come a long way since the days when women stayed at home to care for the kids and put dinner on the table. However, female CEOs are still few and far between.
But in the last 10 years, we have seen a gradual change in equality at the glass ceiling level. Only just recently we have witnessed two key appointments in high office for black female women in the USA. Furthermore, there have been a number of high ranking appointments, such as in New Zealand where Jacinda Ardern has proven her worth as an authentic leader who is able to show her vulnerabilities and compassion while achieving results.
Many women think that they must mimic their male counterparts in order to gain the respect of their colleagues and progress within the business. That they have to assert themselves in a masculine manner, with a ruthless, cold exterior that intimidates rather than endears. Acting in this way removes any sign of their softer side, in case people view them as weak or less capable at their job.
On the other hand, many other female bosses feel the pressure to adopt a nurturing role that is expected of women in a traditional sense. Both of these behaviours are perfectly fine if that’s what you feel comfortable with and authentic living by, but these aren’t roles that you should feel the pressure to fulfill.
It’s perhaps the mentality that senior leadership roles are not readily available to women that forces those with ambition to put on their ‘business mask’ – the persona they believe they have to give off in order to gain respect from their peers, both male and female.
Why should we hide our true self in order to excel in our careers? Having the competency and skills to be an effective leader and being an individual with a unique personality can very much sit hand in hand. Plenty of men manage to do it without judgement.
The fear of judgement and worrying about what others think of you shouldn’t get in the way of being the person you want to be. In fact, you may find that people’s attitudes change when you stop wearing the mask of the person you think you should be at work and start behaving how you want to, in a more authentic manner.
It is possible to develop positive professional relationships with colleagues built on respect, by showing them elements of your true self and not purely the persona you have developed for business. You’d be surprised how much others open up to you when you are open, honest and are not afraid to show them your emotions and vulnerabilities.
While a level of professionalism must be maintained in the workplace, I think you’ll quickly discover that a weight has been lifted off your shoulders as soon as you take off your mask and allow yourself to behave in a way that comes more naturally to you. Being authentic at work will allow you to feel more natural, fulfilled and successful in your career. You’re also likely to feel more confident and free to share your opinions, thoughts and ideas. And in terms of leadership, authenticity inspires trust, loyalty and engagement.
So what’s to lose? Remove the mask and you’ll hopefully see a lot of positive changes in both your professional and personal life.
Andrée Funnell is founder and owner of Aspiring Future Competence and author of Behind the Mask