I found a really interesting article today about women leaders who felt like they have to adopt masculine characteristics in order to be considered successful. It got me thinking about myself and my own leadership journey.
I've never been what I would consider a girly girl. As a teenager I chose chavtastic tracksuits and trainers, as an adult I didn't own a dress until about 3 years ago. Wedding dress shopping was horrendous!
The most influential people in my life have been tough women or men. I've always preferred male company and I can see now this was part of my suit of amour, my projection of myself, the inauthentic me as a way of protecting myself.
As a leader the person I admired most was a very strong male. He taught me to be tenacious, resilient, to not cry when things went wrong but to get the job done. So for years I pulled up my big Bridget jones pants, chucked my hair back in a Trunchbull bun, kept my face make up free and I was resilient and tenacious and felt proud (I now cringe) when I overheard a colleague describe me as a pit bull to a new member of staff. I did these things because I didn't think showing my vulnerability would help me progress in my career.
After some great coaching and mentoring from some absolutely inspiring leaders (shout out to Hannah W for this one) and being introduced to a community of inspiring and truly authentic female leaders, it dawned on me that it was ok to be me. It was ok to lead in a way that I could share my personal experiences, I could wear a dress and a bit of lippy and people would still respect me. I could talk freely about how my 4 years of sleep deprivation from my little man makes me so tired sometimes I can hardly function yet I still turn up and I show up with the best A game I have. I realised it was ok to show my team when I'm sad and I found in doing that I was able to be honest, less aggressive and actually explain by disappointments in a far more articulate way. I realised my colleagues wouldn't think I was weak when I got a bit "emosh" on them they actually respected me more.
I am tenacious and resilient and brutally honest but I am also real. I feel things deeply. I get sad, I get angry, I laugh ALOT. These are the qualities that make me the leader I am, the wife I am, the mummy I am, the friend I am. It's ok to lead my way and I've grown to realise that people follow people not machines. I'd say I'm less "aggressive and unapproachable pitbull" more "slightly yappy but more approachable pug" these days. I do it my way as the woman I am.