Power Suit

What is Executive Presence? | Part 1: Appearance

Most of us have a sense of what Executive Presence is, and there is certainly no lack of definitions on the net, but for purposes of trying to “wrap our brains around” what it is in order to acquire it (or contemplate whether or not we have it or how much we have), it seems like a good idea to develop a way to gauge it and see how we stack up!

Executive Presence has 3 components:

  • appearance
  • communication
  • gravitas

Appearance is obviously all about how we look, but it’s also in a larger sense how we “show up” … it’s not just wearing a suit and tie or a pearl necklace and high-heels. It’s more related to how professional people believe us to be. That’s the part that’s open to interpretation. Certainly how we dress has an effect on people’s perceptions of us, but we could have blind spots that impact our appearance being as strong as it could be.

For example, if you remember during the last two elections, Hilary Clinton changed her appearance a great deal. She always dressed professionally, but she changed it up a lot in both elections. Her hair style and clothing made her look more youthful, while still being age-appropriate. Her clothes were also big enough. Sometimes as we age, people keep on wearing the styles that worked for them when they were younger rather than embracing the new look of aging. Appearance (when it comes to presence) is about projecting the view of you that you want others to hold. If you want people to look up to you, you have to fit the perception of what people believe someone of respect looks like. Wearing clothing that is tight or out of style doesn’t serve you well. You might need someone to point that out.

Appearance is also the look on your face; how you move, motion, gesture. In a sense, it includes your non-verbal communication. Do you “appear” to be in a hurry or are you “focused?” Do you “appear” to be genuinely interested or acting the part? Do you “appear” to sincere or having an agenda? Your body language, dress, demeanor, and actions can speak volumes, and not always in her favor.

The thing about appearance is it doesn’t have to be true! You may look unprofessional yet be extremely professional in your actions. The problem is people may not give you the chance to demonstrate how professional you are. That expression “walk the walk .. talk the talk” has some relevance here. If you don’t look the part you are playing, you may be in an imposter. The goal is to send a consistent message. That’s the reason how you dress matters. And that’s the reason everything matters about your appearance.

Some things to think about:

  • Does your dress depend on your moods or do you dress consistently?
  • Do you frequently struggle to put an outfit together, or are you prepared to “suit up” whenever necessary with all the accessories?
  • Have you ever taken photos or gotten advice from others on how you look? If you did, did you change your look to address their concerns?
  • Does you hair style and jewelry match your look?
  • Do you always smell great and look clean and orderly?
  • Do you have any quirks that send a mixed message? (purple hair, tattoos, a long beard, crazy shoes, strange patterns)?
  • Do your clothes match?
  • Do you wear neutral colors and standard closures/buttons/clasps or do you wear bright colors, ornate fabrics/designs and complicated closures /buttons/clasps?
  • Do you look “well-kempt” or messy like you just crawled out of bed?
  • If you exercise, do you have a plan for how to “suit up” again afterwards w/o looking sweaty or ready for the gym?

It matters! We all have blindspots … what are yours? And are you willing to address them?

In my next posting, I’ll talk about the other 2 components!

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