Your professional image is important for success at work. Your personal image is important for success at everything else. Should these two images be the same? Or, should your professional image be a reflection of your profession, and is it okay that you are a totally different person everywhere else?
When you look at your own reflection in the mirror each morning, do you see the person that you want to be at work? Just like the featured image of this blog, leaders often walk taller in their professional life….. they feel it is important to be “bigger” and “tougher” than they might be at home or with friends. These same leaders tend to tame their personality outside the office and are not near as ferocious as they really are projecting themselves to be when at work. Should that be the case? Shouldn’t we be one and the same?
Sometimes, having a tougher professional image is important so as to lead a team with strength and confidence. But, is that toughness necessary and should not there be a degree of “kitty cat” in that lion of a personality? If you are a kitten in all other aspects of your life, and it works, why would you put on the lion mask at work?
Is having a strong professional image different for a man than a woman? Are men expected to be tough and respected for those character traits?
What about a tough woman? Is she expected to defend her toughness her whole career in order to overcome the [b]itch-y stigma?
Strong Woman Leaders
I’ll preface this section by saying that I didn’t do too much research on strong male leaders. I think it is safe to say that the world expects men to be strong. I am not going to say that is truth – but since I am a female leader and this is my blog, I wanted to speak from that perspective. So, in my research for this blog, I not only read a few articles about strong women professionals but am speaking from my personal experiences through my professional career.
If you are a male leader reading this blog – please know that the idea of marrying your personal and professional images is just as important for you so as to humanize your leadership. There is just less risk.
The first article I found was a entitled “In Defense of Strong [B]itchy Women”. The blog caught my eye because of the feature image: Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. I loved this movie – not for the strong character of Miranda (I actually kinda loathed her), but the character played by Anne Hathaway. Andrea Sachs wanted to be successful writer AND wanted to fit in with that professional world. She was confident that her writing skill would be enough to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of publishing. (If you haven’t seen the movie, then I don’t want to spoil the ending by telling you whether good or strong eventually won out. But watch it – not only for the entertainment value, but to discover if the journey was worth the fight.)
The quote that caught my eye in this article talks about why women leaders think they have to be a lion.
Anyway, the point here is that most often, the Miranda Priestly’s of the world are not good role models. They have that “reputation,” and that is a tough stigma to overcome. Additionally, that reputation often erodes into their personal lives and relationships. The author of the article stressed that kindness and other positive and caring qualities can be strong and confident especially if they translate into both your personal and professional images. It’s how you walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk.
"Just because I'm a strong, [b]itchy woman doesn't mean that I want the world to treat me like one."
None of the above is intended to prejudice our property leaders. We have our share of both male and female leaders. The intention of this blog is to focus on all leaders and making sure that we are all following positive influences.
“Real change requires us to put aside our egos and stereotypes and transform our leadership and communication skills to bridge the gap between gender equality and to #BreakTheBias.”
These guidelines go for both sides of ourselves – both our professional and personal images. Some of my best bosses were approachable, inspiring, leaders by example, responsible, confident, creative and could communicate well. They were also very kind and nice to be around. The combination of all these traits made them great role models and great leaders.
An example of someone whose professional and personal images were not aligned, would be someone who is professionally strong, smart, confident, connected, and successful, and is personally loving, pious, and family-oriented but can’t seem to marry the two images. They often speak out of both sides of their mouths and can’t seem to NOT say hurtful things to some people. Their leadership qualities have road blocks that they cannot overcome and they consistently steamroll their direct reports and friends/family in their journey up the corporate ladder.
Image is everything. Are you paying close attention to your image(s) and being the person you want to be?
Happy looking in the mirror,