Historically, women beginning their careers or stepping into their first management position have tended to feel the need to hide their true self and present the face that they believe their employer is expecting from them. This tendency has led to them potentially suppressing their personality and keeping many of their talents hidden in favour of towing the line. Nowadays, however, women leaders are changing their approach and showing their true self in the office and, significantly, in the boardroom.

Among the key principles behind showing your true self are being truthful – however difficult that may be, especially when delivering bad news – and managing in a style that reflects your own values. By adhering to these principles, the likelihood is that your work persona will more closely resemble your true personality. Achieving respect from your peers and direct reports is essential if you’re to succeed in management – irrespective of the level and the sector you’re operating in – and more and more women are finding that consistently presenting your true self is the best route to success.

Fear of failure can be an issue but failing is a great way to learn and it’s also part of the journey – it’s how you respond to failure that defines your leadership style. As a result, it’s certainly not something to be afraid of, but rather to embrace as a stepping stone towards future success, especially if you’re able to demonstrate how the failure has helped inform your strategy or management style. In general, everyone is hard on themselves when they fail, but women tend to give themselves a harder time than men, so it’s important to learn to forgive mistakes and move on.

Another area in which women have tended to be more reticent is in asking questions. A fear of looking inadequate or inexperienced can lead women to hold back, when in reality asking the question may well open up more possibilities of finding a solution or progressing a project. Asking that question will boost your confidence and – in doing so – benefit the company and gain the respect of your fellow workers.

A survey on Leadership Development conducted by Simmons University in 2021 returned some fascinating results, with the overarching findings being that staff who are authentic will:

1 feel better about themselves
2 consistently perform better, and
3 build stronger relationships with their colleagues

Moreover, the study found that 71% of people who felt able to show their authentic self in a professional context felt more confident, while 60% felt more engaged and 46% felt happier. These statistics are revealing, regardless of the sector, but they’re very pertinent in the context of male-dominated industries, where women can feel under pressure to conform to stereotypes. Forward-looking women are embracing the opportunity that this presents and are proving that being your own authentic person won’t hold you back. The opposite in fact, as making an impression can be attributable to something as simple as being yourself. Historically viewed as a negative trait, for example, showing emotion can now engender respect from within the boardroom and on the shop floor. And abandoning strict dress codes in favour of allowing employees to dress according to their true selves and personal style can have a hugely positive effect on morale and teambuilding. In essence, presenting your true self at work will contribute to a working environment that’s built on the key pillars of productivity, mutual respect, implicit trust and, as a result, success, growth and profit.

Rosa dos Santos, owner of Exact Sourcing, believes that candidates at all levels – and especially women – should never shy away from presenting their true selves in interviews and at work. ‘When we match candidates to positions, we encourage them to present themselves in the best possible light,’ says Rosa. ‘That means not only tailoring their experience and personal messaging to the vacancy they’re applying for, but also conveying their true personality in order to differentiate themselves from the other applicants. We believe that that applies to any level of position and within any industry, but in particular to female candidates who can sometimes feel more inclined to suppress their authentic selves in order to conform, and in doing so lose any point of differentiation.’

Exact Sourcing is a recruitment agency in Cambridge and Newmarket, and we also serve Ely, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Royston and Sawston. If you’re looking for a new position and would like some help and advice, please contact us for an initial chat.