You’ve worked hard at becoming a strong leader. You know you’ve developed strong leadership qualities and that you can inspire others, but before you can inspire anyone to listen to you and take direction from you and follow you, you need to be perceived as a leader.
People will respond to you as a leader not just based on what you say, but how they feel about you. How you look, how you hold yourself, what you wear are all making an impression on people well before you open your mouth.
What’s on the outside is the first, first impression. That first impression is going to go a long way in determining whether you are going to be perceived as a leader from the get-go or if you’re going to have to jump over some hurdles repair the mistaken impression caused by a wasted first impression.
Every part of your appearance over which you have any control is part of the statement about who you are. Remember, how you look, how you hold yourself, the look on your face are all creating an impression well before you ever open your mouth for the first time.
You have the opportunity to take full control of your appearance. If you want to be perceived as authoritative and credible then dress the part. That includes small details you might not normally think about like the watch you choose to wear, rings, your shoes, your briefcase, the type of jewellery you accessorize with, how you style your hair. Small changes can go a long way toward changing how you are perceived by others.
Start with the outside and the inside will follow suit
In the article 5 Tips for Looking and Acting Like a Leader from Dezzain, they say, “Employees should recognize the boss when they walk into the room, simply because of the way they dress, carry themselves and exude confidence.” Perception is a two way street. If people perceive you as a strong leader they will follow you. If you perceive yourself as a strong leader you will make yourself into one.
In the Economist article, The look of a leader they reference research that suggests voice quality accounts for 23% of listeners’ evaluations, vs. only 11% for the content of what was being said. Also people respond better to leaders who are physically fit and who have good posture. “Good posture makes people act like leaders as well as look like them.” You want to be perceived as a strong leader? Then stand up for yourself.
If you want to lead others you need to develop an executive presence, one that inspires confidence when you walk into a room or when talking to others, whether that be in group or one on one conversations.
According to the Washington Post article, How to act, sound and look like a leader, executive presence is not about performance, it’s about signalling to the world that you are leadership material. “First off there’s this thing called gravitas. It’s the biggest piece of the puzzle. It’s essentially how you act. The second piece is communication skills, which is you how speak. And then finally, it’s how you look – what is your appearance? These three things together make a huge difference in terms of whether you’re given a chance.”
None of this is to discount the importance of actually becoming a strong leader. Of learning by doing. Of being an exemplary communicator. Of leading by example. It’s to say people will be more apt to listen to what you say and work with you if they perceive you as a leader.