Why Appearances Are Always Important for Leaders

February 21, 2023

smiling man

Overview: We derive many relevant conclusions based on the appearance of people. While it’s not wise to judge a book by its cover, that’s what we tend to do quite successfully in everyday life and leadership. Leadership coaching can help leaders understand how leadership appearance impacts charisma, influence, and the ability to inspire.

“People like leaders who look like they are dominant, optimistic, friendly to their friends, and quick on the trigger when it comes to enemies. They like boldness and despise the appearance of timidity and protracted doubt. ” – Daniel Kahneman.

Appearance is important in life and leadership because we tend to judge and appraise people’s abilities based on their appearances. Though judging a book by its cover may seem like an exercise in superficiality, reality says otherwise. We can draw surprisingly accurate conclusions about people based on their appearances.

The Dalai Lama says appearance is something absolute. As such, it’s all the information we can glean from someone we don’t know. Unlike appearance, reality is based on a multitude of interdependencies. Given our natural abilities to read appearance, we can decipher many of these interdependencies based on said appearance.

Leadership coaching recognizes that appearance is a leadership attribute. It may not be the most important ability, but it has a significant say in whether people see their leaders as capable.

What Appearances Tell Us about Leaders

Whether we realize it or not, we’re all able judges of leadership appearance. Appearance provides us with a wealth of information about the physical health, assertiveness, aggressiveness, and abilities of an individual.

We perceive tall men as stronger and more capable to lead. We can deduce height from the facial structure if a close-up picture is all we can see of a person. The facial structure also gives us clues about a person’s assertiveness and trustworthiness. We can tell if someone is more inclined to commit a crime based on facial structure alone.

How Leadership Coaching Breaks Down Leadership Appearance

Executive coaching professionals understand how appearances boost or deflate leaders’ abilitites to influence.

  • Height is a significant predictor of leadership charisma in men. While it matters in women as well, it’s not as important a factor as it is for men.
  • Physical attractiveness is a more significant predictor of leadership charisma in women than men, but it’s an important factor for both sexes.
  • Youthful vigor is a minor contributor to leadership charisma. We tend to equate maturity with capable leadership, which may explain why we don’t grant significant weight to youthfulness in the equation of leadership.
  • Simple, stylish clothing carries an equally significant weight for men as it does for women in leadership. Dressing for one’s “next job” makes practical and psychological sense.
  • The most important factor from the perspective of leadership charisma for both sexes is being well-groomed and polished.

We don’t have control over how tall we are or our facial structures, but we control our physical fitness, posture, clothing, and grooming. These factors seem to matter most.

The Significance of Being Well-Groomed

Grooming is the most important aspect of leadership appearance. Executive coaching professionals advise clients to dress for their next jobs. In addition to a “faking it till you make it” effect, dressing up also boosts confidence and broadcasts professionalism.

Leader in a business suit.
Looking sharp expands leadership influence.

Being too casual or unkempt tells people their leaders don’t care enough about leadership to put in the effort to create polished appearances. How could someone who won’t bother to look professional lead an organization to success?

While looks may be trivial when compared to other leadership skills, they matter.

Leaders find it hard to get accurate and honest feedback on their looks. Leadership coaches can also aid them in this regard. When leaders get out of their comfort zones, they can change their styles and looks as part of those same efforts.

And though it won’t make their leadership skills sharper, looking better can make it easy for leaders to inspire and influence reports.

Contact us to learn more about how you can join the IL Movement as a coach or how you can benefit from partnering with us to bring IL Solutions to you and your organization.

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