When I first started working, I had this perception that I had to conform to a certain leadership style to be successful at work. This was mostly influenced by the messages and feedback that I received from various line managers over the years before I joined Capco. From my first job, I was told I would need to change my personality to be ‘meaner’ – my managers felt I was too nice to be successful in the workplace. Six months into my graduate scheme, my line manager sat me down and told me he was putting ‘be meaner’ on my personal development plan. In a few other roles I had the same feedback, reflecting a concern I was too nice to be successful as a leader. All consistently said that I was doing a great job and this had no impact on my performance so I didn’t feel I should have to fundamentally change my personality for work.
As I changed jobs, I began to see and appreciate the value of different leadership styles. It wasn’t until I worked closely with an incredible woman at RBS that I saw a leadership style that showed me that nice girls can finish first. Everyone would describe her as the nicest person you could meet – she didn’t need to raise her voice, people wanted to lean in to hear what she had to say and were determined not to disappoint her. It brought the message home to me that you can be successful while being authentic.
This concept of authentic leadership means that individuals show their real selves at work – they do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. You really can be yourself at work.
On a parting note, for those of you who may find them useful, below are a few things that helped me in my journey:
- Speak to your coach, colleagues and friends
- Read books and articles on leadership and different techniques to be impactful
- Understand the strategies available to you to ensure your voice is heard and impactful in the workplace.
- Thinking before you say “yes” – knowing that it’s OK to say “no” or asking your manager to help you re-prioritise
- Ensuring you speak up in situations if you’re unhappy
- Being clear and specific about what you want to say, backing it up with the right language (written and verbal) and using facts / numbers to get points across
- Getting comfortable with giving live feedback – even if it is challenging to give
I’d like to leave you all with this video, proving that you can be yourself and still be successful.