Being the boss is never easy, but it’s twice as hard for a woman. 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, but female CEOs remain few and far between.
It’s perhaps the mentality that senior leadership roles are not readily available to women that force those with the 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.
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 – and 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 an authentic living by, but these aren’t roles that you should feel the pressure to fulfil.
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 judgment 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 open up to them.
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 let go of that mask and allow yourself to behave in a way that comes more naturally to you. Being authentic at work will allow you to enjoy what you are doing more and to find satisfaction in your career. You’re likely to also feel more confident and free to share your opinions, thoughts and ideas. And in terms of leadership, authenticity inspires loyalty and engagement.
So what’s to lose? Remove the mask and you’ll hopefully see a lot of positive changes in your professional life and beyond. The concept of wearing a professional mask in the workplace is something I discuss in more depth in my new book Behind the Mask, which is now available