Throughout my career, I have struggled to see myself in managerial roles. As a young Maori woman, I didn’t grow up seeing business leaders that looked like me. Every leader I worked for in my 20’s looked, sounded and behaved the same way. And that wasn’t like me.
Despite being encouraged to pursue leadership positions, I didn’t put myself forward. I really believed that because of what I looked like and who I was, that I wasn’t as deserving of the role. I didn’t know this was called Imposter Syndrome – I didn’t know about this until years later actually, but that’s what it was.
Eventually, through mentoring and encouragement, I was able to build enough confidence to take on the role of General Manager of Talent in Auckland. It’s been three years since then, and although our team is strong and business is growing – I still have moments of doubt.
Being able to share my story this morning at the New Zealand launch of our book Human, is a moment I won’t forget. Discussing first-hand perspectives of diversity alongside a powerhouse panel made up of Nick Whitehouse, Mahsa Mohagegh, Kylie Telford and Nat Dudley was incredibly special and loudly reminded me that inclusion happens in those small moments of interaction that make someone feel completely comfortable to be themselves.
After the event, I had a powerful moment that will stay with me for a long time. A brave person who I had recently met came up to me and wanted to share something. He admitted that he had no idea I was ‘the manager’ until he heard me speak on the panel today. When he initially met me, he had made the assumption that I wasn’t in charge. Today, he heard me share my journey – and he recognised his thoughts in a shared moment together.
He was reflective and inspired and was considering what he could do next. I was really impressed by his self-awareness and his motivation to grow.
But…if he didn’t have a personal story of hardship – how could he be authentic in leading this change?
I said…but this is part of your story. This reflection, this acknowledgment, this inspiration.
Now…it’s time to tell it.