Fashion and Leadership

September 17th, 2005

It seems that clothing is on everyone’s mind right now. Fashion week dominated New York City’s midtown last week, fall magazines are filled with the latest fashions, the Wall Street Journal’s Carol Hymowitz’s article “In The Lead” featured opinions about attire and leadership effectiveness, and a recent article in Fast Company The CEO’s New Clothes by Linda Tischler, wonders whether current Aquarian leadership styles will be just passing trends or long-time standards.

All of this discussion about style reminds me of my grandmother’s housedress. Nana Stella was a true woman of her generation. She wore a baggy, colorless smock almost all the time. I remember my grandfather sitting in his chair, smoking a cigar and watching his sports shows on TV, never even noticing her as she emptied the ashtray, fed him, cleaned up after him. One day we were all going to a restaurant and Nana changed to a navy blue dress, did her hair and put on rouge for the occasion. What a difference: Grandpa suddenly noticed her, stood up and waltzed with her around the room.

Many executives wonder why no one is noticing them, why they are losing their edge…or why they are relegated to unremarkable careers, overlooked for promotions, or sidelined or misunderstood. One reason could be that they suffer from the “grandmother’s housedress syndrome”. Too many leaders stop paying attention to the way they come across, to how they comport themselves, forget to display courtesies or to demonstrate a confident, modern, stylish presence. They become comfortable at “home” in their workplaces.

Take a good look at your style today:

1. Notice how dynamic and respected leaders in your organization comport themselves, communicate and yes, dress. Are you reflecting the current style?

2. Look at your office. Does it demonstrate the brand you wish it to? If the CEO walked into your office today, what impression would s/he get?

3. Are you conscious about how you treat others? Are you positive, constructive, interactive, engaging? Are you included in important meetings and considered a “go to” person for your area of expertise?

4. Are you getting the results you want? Are you conscious of your leadership attitude, attributes and attire? Have you looked in the mirror lately and asked for feedback?

If your responses lead you to thinking about refreshing your own leadership image, it is probably time for you to think about ways to be more crisp, more present, more communicative….more positively noticable. Get dressed up and go out to lunch!

One comment on “Fashion and Leadership

  1. E. Halperin on said:

    I agree! When getting dressed in a good suit or putting on that dress that makes you feel good, it gives you more confidence.

    Sometimes we just don’t have the energy to think about this. My trick is to think about it the night before and layout what to wear for the next day. 15 min. max. Thanks for the reminder.

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