She landed the job with a strong back and a soft front

As a finance leader in the aviation industry, my client had navigated a male-dominated culture for many years. She increasingly faced unconscious biases, gender pay gaps, and a lack of female role models in the workplace, which left her feeling frustrated and undervalued. Determined to drive change, she established a women’s employee resource group to support her female colleagues. However, when her manager kept failing to provide clear guidance on the new role she aspired to, she decided to seek opportunities outside the company.

Show up more authentically

We started working together and analysed what types of roles and sectors would motivate her. What especially stood out in the coaching was her longing to show up more authentically. For her, this means leading with wisdom and softness, and letting go of the exhausting efforts to constantly conform to others’ expectations (pleasing or pretending).

Whilst working together, she secured job interviews with two different companies, progressing to the final round with each. The interviews were tough, but she confidently expressed her vision for future ready leadership and showed courage by being honest about her own leadership style: a combination of a strong back and a soft front.

The reason one company rejected her

In our recent session, we celebrated her landing one of the amazing finance jobs. Most importantly, we celebrated that she achieved this by staying true to her authentic leadership style.
Ironically, this was exactly the reason the other company had rejected her—they doubted whether the softness in her leadership style would fit with their team.

It reminded me of what Brené Brown writes:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are, it requires you to be who you are”.

Fitting in is quite easy, but true belonging is much harder.

Emotional intelligence

Many of us, myself included, developed an “armor” to protect ourselves as kids. As we grow older, we realise this armor actually hinders us from being who we are and realizing our full potential.

This was also the case for my client.
But, she did the work on her emotional intelligence. She was able to let go of her armor and show up authentically. She successfully landed a job that aligns with her values and strengths at a company that sees diversity as a business need and understands that future ready leadership is about having a strong back and a soft front.

She does it and that’s my wish for you as well.

I hope these beautiful words from Roshi Joan Halifax will inspire you as much as they have inspired me:

All too often our so–called strength comes from fear, not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open, representing choiceless compassion.

How can we give and accept care with strong-back, soft front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly — and letting the world see into us.