Is authenticity really possible at work? 

Find the power of personal change


I have to say that I managed to find my way to success in the corporate world, but I also had a lot of lessons learned on the way. This is more personal information that I share, but I do it with the hope that these lessons will be useful for you and they will help you avoid some mistakes and shorten your journey to success.

Do you know those American movies with successful businesspeople that build strategies, alliances, fight for the best position, best results, always ready to win?

There is from time to time the woman archetype – that one really determined to fight her way up, prove that she’s stronger and tougher than the men whom she’s working with, strong, independent, dressed flowless from head to toes. 

Well, this is what I wanted to be when I grow up.

I started my professional life with a strong determination and motivation to have results, to be the best, and to be recognized for my performance, professionalism, and determination. I put out there the image of a strong person, tough, independent, that knows it all and can do it all, no matter the circumstances.

I had this belief that the corporate world asks for a cold approach, so I convinced myself I have to be tough, with strong control over everything and everyone, rigid and focused only on results. I strongly believed that that was the only way to succeed.

Little I knew back then that there is another way, more balanced, empathic, and closer to the way I am, my true self.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to give up on results, in the end, this is what we are paid for. Nor that having one or more attributes mentioned above is wrong. What I believe in, is having those results by paying attention to how we treat ourselves and others on the way there. 

I’ve changed roles from team leader to division director, to executive board member, having more and more areas of responsibility. Each time I had the feeling I figured out how to “properly” manage a team, I was moving to a new role with more responsibilities, new people in the team, different personalities, different levels of seniority. Each and every time I have changed roles, besides the great excitement and motivation, it slipped anxiety as well, insecurities, if I have what I need to handle all responsibilities, if I have the proper skills to deal with my team, my peers, or my boss if I will be seen as capable enough. Which, by the way, it’s totally normal – it’s ok not having everything figured out, it’s ok to have conflicted feelings – change is not necessarily easy, but we need to deal with it properly if we want to evolve from it. Too many times I chose to deal with my fears by becoming more and more tough and controlling. Which didn’t work well all the time, especially when you are an executive and you have to deal with senior managers.

Despite all these, I have managed to do great things along the years, I have also a lot of qualities 😊, but there are some things I wish I would have done differently and/ or earlier in my career and I want to share with you some advice:

  • Be more open in accepting help and guidance. For many years I believed that asking or accepting help would make me look week, that “the boss should know it all”. Well, when we are changing directions, we usually need to develop new skills or strategies, so asking for help is in my opinion a sign of self-awareness (I know what I don’t know) 
  • Listen, like listen for real. It is so important for our teams to be heard, understood, have their opinion taken into consideration. 
  • Show more empathy. I was running away from this the most – I thought that if I pretend not to be empathic, things will not affect me personally. Nothing more untrue than that. Empathy is about understanding the other feelings, not necessarily share the same opinion; so, if you do feel like this, why hide it? You would miss an important part of human connection.
  • Be more authentic. Yes, we all have role models, it’s great to see the good in others and take inspiration from that, but we also need to apply it to our own personality. The bigger the gap between whom we show out there and who we really are, the more unhappy we are. 
  • Have the courage to say “I don’t know”. Yes, there are times where we simply don’t know the answer, and it’s ok to admit it. Vulnerability is part of being human. Just to consider that it also needs to be a limit for that – overdoing will create a great deal of confusion, people don’t follow other people, if they show they have no clear direction. 
  • Celebrate wins more often. Projects and activities never stop, we always need to keep things moving. Changes are coming rapidly, so we all look forward to what’s our next move. But it is equally important to acknowledge what you’ve realized so far. It keeps the motivation and engagement up. 
  • Understand that perfection does not exist. Yes, now I know, perfection it’s a myth 😊 , and try to find perfection it’s equally exhausting and frustrating. It’s much more rewarding doing the right things at the right time.
  • Accept that expertise sometimes stands in the way of progress and innovation. Instead of “been there, done that, I know how it’s done”, ask yourself “Why?” and challenge the known and comfortable way of doing things.  

I understood many of these things along the way, mostly when I started to work deeper on my personal development. Working with myself I discovered a new me, a person who likes being empathic, who loves the real connections, open and vulnerable.

This new version of myself changed my leadership style, brought me better results, and led me to discover people around me from a new perspective. 


My strong belief is that we as leaders work for our people, not the other way around. Leading them with kindness and empathy, helping them in their journey to get better results, makes us better. We, as leaders, are an inspiration and a role model for our team, so opening up and making real connections create a strong foundation where people believe in us and they will be beside us to achieve great things. 

” The essence of great leadership is a personal example, not authority.”


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Iuliana Rusei