When I started my business I instinctively felt that I should hide my feminine side, because that is what other women leaders who had gone before me did. I had only ever worked for men, so I didn’t have confidence in my own style, which at the time felt quite different.
My instinct was not to focus on all the things that I had seen prioritised before, such as revenue, sales targets, number of people and overall aggressive growth. I wanted to focus much more on people, how I was investing in them and how they felt, giving them a much more individualised journey at Kea. This felt true of not only the people who worked for us but the people we were working with externally, our clients and candidates. I believed in a longer-term approach to relationships in general.
At the time I had no idea if what we were doing was going to work; my female business partner and I felt like pioneers. But we had conviction in what we were doing, and this approach has enabled us to build a great culture that underpins and defines our success as a business.
As time evolved the company became more successful, and I not only trusted that my instinct had been right, I believed in the style even more and allowed more of my feminine side to come out. As a result we have built a business based on collaboration, sharing and nurturing, with a strong focus on the team.
I do still occasionally have to remind myself that it’s ok to tap into my feminine side though. It has been so ingrained into my generation that the male blueprint is best, that it can be hard to remember that it’s ok to use my feminine identity.
That’s why I feel strongly that it is so important for everyone, whether women or men, to own their own style and identity and be true to who they really are.
It is always a mistake to try and fit into someone else’s idea of what a great business leader looks like. Employees, clients and investors value authenticity, and while it can be challenging to simply be yourself in an industry where there are few role models to guide you, it will more than pay off.
I know that my impact has only increased as I have become more myself in my role as a leader.