How Does Your Personal Appearance Affect Your Leadership?

How Does Your Personal Appearance Affect Your Leadership?

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Women’s Leadership conference called ‘Lead On’ put on by Watermark in the Bay Area. Not only was it fabulous to reconnect with some close friends there, but it was motivating to be with so many women passionate about leadership. The keynote speakers were Hillary Clinton and Brené Brown – both very inspirational women in different ways.

One thing that struck me about this conference was that of the seven women speakers I heard, three made comments about their weight, including both Hillary and Brene. While most of the comments were slight or barely noticeable, one speaker spent a good part of her workshop talking about her weight-loss journey.

This conversation led me to think about how rarely we talk about the affect of personal appearance in leadership conversations, yet how often it can be part of the underlying conversation, either about us, or by us.

Women worry about their weight, wrinkles and greying hair. Men worry about their height (or lack thereof) and receding hairline. Everyone worries about their age (especially if you are wanting to transition jobs.)

In my work with hundreds of clients, what I’ve seen is that you should worry less about your “difficult to change” physical attributes and more about your executive presence and how/whether you communicate what you want to communicate.  A number of studies show that 93% of our leadership presence is in our body positioning and our tone of voice.

It seems time to turn the conversation away from how much of you this is, or isn’t, and look at how your are effectively using your body as a crucial communication tool. From there – you can have a conversation about what you can change to dramatically impact your presence and your career.

If you also believe the conversation around what matters in leadership needs to change, please share this with those in your network!

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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