Being yourself in business is scary - so take the mask off

Are you hiding behind a mask in business?
Roseann Kelly

IT was Halloween at the weekend, but why is it still scary? Are you still behind the mask, not being yourself?

At a recent Women in Business event, international sports psychologist Caroline Currid told delegates about her 20-40-60 rule.

In your twenties you are totally obsessed with what people think about you. Then in your forties you decide you don’t care what people think about you.

And in your sixties, you know that nobody was thinking about you all along!

Isn’t it time we were all 60?

How does this apply to you and your business or career? We are all leaders in our businesses, our companies, department or teams, and the best leaders are authentic . . . they have removed the mask, they are being 60.

I’ve set out some principles on how to be true to yourself, but I stress they’re not all my words of wisdom and I am honestly far from achieving all of them myself.

Something authentic leaders do on a regular basis is they speak the truth. In business today, we don’t always feel comfortable being ourselves and 'swallow our truth'. We say things to please others and to not draw attention to ourselves.

Authentic leaders are different. They are consistently honest and feel most comfortable being themselves. They also lead from the heart. Business is about people and leadership is about people.

The best leaders wear their hearts on their sleeves and are not afraid to show their vulnerability. They genuinely care about other people and spend their days developing the people around them. Who you are speaks far more loudly than anything you say.

Strength of character is a true leadership quality and people can sense it instinctively. Authentic leaders work on their character by living the values they espouse. They walk their talk and are aligned with those core values.

The best leaders are courageous and it can take a lot of courage to go against the crowd. It also takes a lot of courage to be visionary, requiring inner strength to do what you think is right, even when it isn’t easy. Authentic leadership is often about taking the road less travelled and doing, not what is easy, but what you feel is right.

The most effective leaders take care of themselves too. Taking care of yourself is a sign of self-respect. You can't do great things at work if you don't invest in yourself.

They also leave a legacy. Authentic leaders continuously build their legacy by adding value to their staff, colleagues, customers and clients. The pressure of leaving a legacy in business can be scary.

The notion of ‘leaving the world a better place’ may seem a tall order and business can be tough and ruthless; but sometimes the truth is tough and ruthless too. But it’s well worth the effort and we all know someone we admire who lives by this philosophy.

Let’s put more of our true selves into business and create a business community in Northern Ireland that leads us to a better place.

:: Roseann Kelly (roseann@ is chief executive of Women in Business (, the largest and fastest growing business network for female entrepreneurs and senior women in management in Northern Ireland with more than 1,000 members. Follow Women in Business NI on facebook at www. or on twitter @ wibni.


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