When women first entered the corporate world, they weren’t allowed to wear pants in the office, let alone lead a team meeting.
Over the years, as women have moved from the typing pool into leadership positions, we’ve struggled to assert ourselves. Particularly in male-dominated industries like tech, finance, manufacturing, and construction.
We see our male colleagues rewarded for assertive, competitive behavior but worry that if we go the same route, someone will call us aggressive, abrasive or unlikable. And there’s a good reason for this concern. In their 2008 study, “Can an Angry Woman Get Ahead?” psychologists Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann found that women’s “emotional reactions were attributed to internal characteristics (e.g., “she is an angry person, “she is out of control”),” while” men’s emotional reactions were attributed to external circumstances.”
However, too many women still think that the way to get attention is to “act like men”. This misconception generally leads to loud, obnoxious behavior, can do irreparable damage to personal branding, and destroy years of career progress.
Polish Your Bold Personal Brand Without Losing Yourself
While some women need to soften their edges, others can fall behind because they aren’t assertive enough. One of my clients recently applied for a higher-level management position at her company in the tech industry. “My boss said I likely wouldn’t get it because I speak too quietly,” she told me. “I used to have a voice but somewhere along the way I lost it and I don’t know how to get it back”.
I suspected that at some point in her life, someone had smashed her dreams. As I began to dig a bit deeper with her, I learned that she was raised in a conservative household by parents who discouraged her from speaking with authority. When she initially mentioned to her mother that she wanted to go into tech, her Mom responded that she would never be successful.
Years later, despite all of her qualifications and expertise, she was afraid to speak up. When I suggested that we work to develop her voice, she was unsure. This resistance was partly due to her family conditioning, but also because she was afraid to speak “too loudly”. She was afraid she would draw attention to herself and her colleagues would see that her mother was right – she didn’t have what it takes to do well in such a male-dominated industry.
It’s important to remember that your personal brand reflects where you are right now and where you want to go in the future. Sometimes, to align both, it’s necessary to make small changes in your image. That work can be scary, but it’s well worth the effort.
Five Tips to Create a Bold Personal Brand
Whatever your particular circumstance, here are some simple steps you can take to create a bold personal brand that aligns with your authentic self and future goals.
- Think Before You Speak: Choose your words wisely. Pause before hitting send on that strongly worded email and make sure you’re saying what you mean.
- Cultivate Compassion: Your team members want to do their best work, but they can’t without your support and encouragement. Treat them like people, not task-rabbits.
- Learn to Listen: If someone comes to you with a problem, listen first, ask questions second. Avoid shifting blame. Ask them about their process and engage them to find a solution.
- Know Your Employees: Spend time with your team members to develop an understanding of their values and skills. That way, you can delegate in a way that sets everyone up for success.
- Risk Vulnerability: Being powerful doesn’t equal being resistant. Admit when you’ve messed up and always speak from your heart
The Way Forward
Our top-down, hyper-competitive corporate environments have traditionally undervalued vulnerability, compassion, and empathy. Luckily, this is changing. More companies are starting to see those attributes as necessary for effective leadership. This shift is great news if you’re a woman looking to develop a bold personal brand and prove that you can create unification, rather than division in the ranks.
If you’re ready to go from abrasive to bold, let’s talk. Schedule a 30-minute complimentary call with me today!