093 - Does Appearance Matter?

Very early in my corporate career, I went to my boss to request some leadership training. I was the new leader of a small group of software developers and I wanted to be the best leader I could be.

My boss seemed excited that I was asking for training and was eager to send me to what he considered to be top-notch leadership training that was developed in-house by the company's training department.

I should have known by the title this training wouldn’t be all that beneficial for me. The training was entitled “Perfecting Your Executive Presence.” The 2-day workshop was all about dressing like an executive, where to sit during a meeting, and body language during a presentation.

So did any of that training help me?

Well, I can say with confidence my team didn’t see any real change in my leadership ability after I returned from the training.

But, it did make me realize that appearance does matter. Just not near as much as some people think.

Appearance isn’t about impressing your team

The training focused on maintaining an executive appearance for the purpose of impressing others. However, the real value in maintaining a good appearance isn’t in the impression it makes on others, but in the impact it makes on you.

There are real psychological benefits to getting all dressed up for an important event or activity. We’ve all experienced the mental and emotional boost we feel when we put on our finest clothes to attend some fancy event. 

The same can be said for your mental and emotional state each day while leading your team. When you feel better about yourself, you’re a better leader.

The real impression your appearance leaves on your team

Your team isn’t all that impressed with your fancy clothes. However, your appearance does leave an impactful impression on your team.

If you are squared away (as we called it in the Marine Corps), then your team knows you are working to take care of yourself. Your team needs and deserves the very best version of you as a leader. When you dress well and maintain a healthy appearance, your team feels valued by your efforts to provide your best self to them.

On the other hand, your sloppy and unkept appearance will convey to your team that you don’t care. You will appear to be just going through the motions. You will not inspire maximum effort from your team if you aren’t willing to take care of yourself.

Better to underdress than overdress

One benefit of leading in the military is that everyone has the same uniform. The only way to differentiate yourself with your uniform is to make sure it is more squared away than everyone else - it’s cleaner, pressed better, etc. We would starch and press our camouflage utilities so much the cargo pockets wouldn’t properly open.

But in the corporate world, there isn’t always a standard uniform. In this case, be careful that you aren’t overdressed. When you are overdressed it becomes difficult for your team to relate to you. The organizational chart already presents artificial boundaries that hinder your team from building a good relationship with you. Don’t make that even worse with your overdressed appearance.


Resources Mentioned:

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