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My Journey as an Authentic LGBTQ+ Leader

Posted 3rd June 2024
By Focus7

In the world of business, authenticity isn’t just about being true to oneself; it’s about fostering an environment where others feel empowered to do the same. My journey as an LGBTQ+ leader has been filled with challenges, growth, and profound learning experiences, all of which have shaped not only my leadership style but also the core values of our organisation.

The Early Days: Navigating Challenges

I first came out with a ‘bang’ at 18, (I knew at 15!) I was in your face loud and proud! I was “this is me and it’s not my problem if you can’t handle it!” … But coming out wasn’t a single event, it was a series of moments, at different stages of my personal and career growth, each with its own set of obstacles and triumphs. In the early days of my career, the business landscape was not as accepting or understanding of LGBTQ+ issues as it is today. The fear of judgement and discrimination was palpable and often influenced how openly I could express myself. It required a balance of courage and discretion to navigate these waters, and there were times when it felt easier to conform than to stand out. 

But I decided that I was not going to hide who I was, so I decided to stand out! I realised that by masking my true identity, I was not only doing a disservice to myself but also to those who might benefit from a visible, relatable role model.

Helping Others Along the Way

As I grew in confidence and maturity, I found myself in positions where I could influence change. It wasn’t just about being openly LGBTQ+; it was about being a leader who advocated for inclusivity and diversity. This part of my journey was less about me and more about how I could help others.

I focused on creating a culture at Focus7 where diversity was not just accepted but celebrated. Initiatives aimed at increasing awareness and supporting LGBTQ+ employees became a staple. We introduced training programs, participated in community events, and set up a support network for our LGBTQ+ staff. Each step forward was a building block in creating an environment where everyone could feel valued and understood.

The Impact of Authentic Leadership

The impact of embracing my identity extended beyond personal liberation. It showed in our team’s performance, in the loyalty of our clients, and in the innovative ideas that diversity brought to the table. Authentic leadership encourages others to be open, fostering a culture of trust and respect. It also positioned our company as a forward-thinking organisation that prioritises people and their well-being.

Lessons Learned and Shared

Throughout my journey, several key lessons have emerged:

  1. Vulnerability is a strength – Sharing my story openly has not only helped demystify LGBTQ+ experiences but has also encouraged others to share theirs, creating deeper connections.
  2. Inclusivity drives innovation – Diverse teams bring diverse ideas. Embracing different perspectives has led to richer, more creative solutions for our clients.
  3. Support is crucial – Establishing support mechanisms within the workplace is essential. It helps individuals feel secure and valued, which boosts overall morale and productivity.

Looking Forward

Being an LGBTQ+ leader today is profoundly different from when I started. The journey, though fraught with challenges, has been incredibly rewarding. It has taught me the power of authenticity, the importance of support, and the transformative impact of inclusive leadership.

As I continue to lead and learn, my hope is to inspire others—whether they are part of the LGBTQ+ community or allies—to embrace their authentic selves and support others in doing the same. After all, leadership is not just about leading; it’s about lifting others as you rise.

Connect and Collaborate

If you’re navigating your own journey of authenticity or looking to foster a more inclusive environment in your organisation, I’d love to connect and share insights. Reach out at hello@focus7int.com and let’s make a difference together.

CEO at Focus7

With passion and professionalism in abundance, Vida Barr-Jones has an impressive track record of establishing and meeting business goals. Vida brings 34 years of commercial experience, having spent eleven years as a Board Director at Europe’s largest FTSE-listed office products wholesaler. Vida is an inspirational leader known for excellent communication and engagement across all levels.

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