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Finding Leadership Success by Overcoming Industry Barriers

C. Esther De Wolde is the Chief Executive Officer at Phantom Screens, North America’s leading provider of retractable screens. Esther is an experienced strategic leader who prides herself on giving back and using personal values as a foundational element for leadership. Esther focuses on Phantom’s corporate commitment and objectives on truly enhancing the lives of homeowners across North America and the local community.



By C. Esther De Wolde



You must know yourself before you can lead others. As a company founder turned CEO, nothing rings truer than this statement. For me, holding personal values close in the workplace not only leads to professional success but also personal fulfilment. 

I work in an industry where women are the minority, making up only 28% of manufacturing jobs and I am frequently asked, “What is it like to work in a male-dominated industry?” The truth is that I aim to succeed because of who I am and I don’t spend time considering my gender. However, we, unfortunately, do live in a world where inequality still exists and many are faced with discrimination in the workplace. So how can those who face inequality barriers further their professional success?


Focus on your Strengths

I never allow my gender to dictate what I can or cannot do, both on a personal and a professional level. I focus on my core strengths in order to be the best that I can be as an employee, leader, and individual, regardless of my gender. 

At Phantom Screens, we value employees for what they bring to the table as individuals and I consistently emphasize to them the importance of working in a business with clear cultural values for inclusivity and diversity. 


Stay True to Your Values

My upbringing has driven me to not only become the person that I am, but has significantly shaped the leadership style I exude. Being raised by Christian parents, early in my career I decided that, regardless of what industry I was working in, I wanted to honour my faith by pursuing the dream of improving the lives of my customers, employees and partners.

This is how I established the foundation for my leadership style and I have since learned valuable lessons throughout my career. I confess there have been times I made value missteps. But, these helped me recalibrate and recommit to the saying, walk the talk. It is a sad truth that devoting to personal values may be criticized in the workplace, especially if they are based on religious beliefs. However, we all hold our own worldview that is shaped by religion, politics or the culture we grew up in. Staying true to your values is not about imposing beliefs on others, but rather reflecting on what you truly value in yourself and in those around you.


Apply What You Learn

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in maintaining my values while breaking through inequality barriers in the workplace:

  • Take time to reflect: First and foremost, reflect on where you’ve been, where you are and what you ultimately want to achieve. Honestly ask yourself if your present workplace and career correlates with how you define your life’s purpose and deeply held values.
  • Fulfil your potential: I often get asked in reference to the adversity I’ve faced in my career as a woman of faith: “Has it all been worth it?” The simple answer is yes. Seeing every employee pursue their potential and bloom where they have been planted has made it all worthwhile and nothing brings me more joy than that, whether it’s at Phantom Screens or another organization.
  • Hold yourself accountable: Three years ago, I created a formal advisory board in order to keep me and my team accountable. I never want to be in a position of complacency. I want to be pushed and challenged to continue to grow the company, the team and myself to keep striving to fulfil our full potential.

From my perspective, the best measure of success comes down to staying true to what you believe in and the impact you have on improving the lives of others. Operating from the foundation of your personal values in the workplace and pursuing your fullest potential, regardless of industry barriers, will ensure you are fulfilled by your career, and in who you are as a team member and as an individual.