Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

By: Anja Uitdehaag

All things being equal, people will work with people they like. All things not being equal, they still will – John C. Maxwell

Let me start with a question:

In Business or elsewhere in your life, think about times when you tried to be something you weren’t to impress others or gain acceptance. What did that experience teach you? Why do you think you fell into it?

It is tempting for women who report primarily to men to believe they have to copy-paste men’s management, leadership and interpersonal styles. They adhere to many of the “rules of conduct” that spelled success for men.

It is a given that you need to have both substance and business acumen to lead in today’s business environment; However, what keeps leaders focused and able to make tough decisions is their authenticity.

Put simply:

Authenticity is acting in alignment with your values and core beliefs.

Your values are those things that you believe represent right and wrong as well as what you believe defines success for you and others.

Authenticity involves knowing what’s really important to you, what you’re committed to and what your priorities are in both the short and long term. It gives you a true sense of direction along with a clear purpose and vision for yourself. It serves as a compass in your life that promotes consistency in what you say and do.

As long as we are able to find our own voice, adapt our behaviors and at the same time maintain our personal values and integrity we will function well.

As soon as we are challenged to act in a way that is foreign to our nature, our integrity and authenticity come under pressure.

Geraldine Laybourne, the co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Oxygen Media, sees simplicity in authenticity. For her, it is about being who you are – no matter what. She remembers seeing all the books in the 1980s about how women in the corporate world were supposed to act, dress and talk. She said she never went down that look-alike path:

“I just figured, You know what?, I’m me. And I am a much better me than anyone else. And if I try to be something I’m not, I’m not going to succeed. I can’t be a man. I’m going to do a lousy job at being a man.”

So true!

We’re all different! Being different from men (or other women) isn’t something to change or hide.

Succeeding in the workplace is about being your own person, using your strengths and being aware of your weaknesses. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a man or woman.

Personally I have never thought of myself as a “female leader” while climbing the corporate ladder. I did what I thought I would be good at, did what I aspired to do, tried to position myself as an objective executive capable of taking risks when required and followed as much as possible my heart.

I believe that women should be true to themselves and their own individual strengths. Each of us has unique talents, experiences and perspectives and it’s by fully exploiting and developing the rich mix from this diversity that organizations can unleash the range of talent available to them.

“Acting like a man” will inevitably get you into trouble. It creates a kind of dissonance if behaviors don’t match expectations. As a consequence you are mistrusted or perceived as non-authentic.

If you’re authentic, everyone will know it. If you’re authentic and excellent, you’ll be invaluable to any organization that is worthy of you.

To be successful, happy, and fulfilled at work and in life, it’s less about acting more like a man or more like a woman, it is about becoming a best ever version of yourself.

There is no-one alive that is You-er than you! – Dr. Seuss


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