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Does professional image affect leadership credibility as an entrepreneur?

This post was previously edited by a moderator.

http://quibb.com/links/dude-upgrade-your-professional-image

I recently read an article about a CEO, who upon hiring a stylist, updating his haircut, and getting new headshots, claimed to be taken much more seriously, and even saw a boost in his own confidence and leadership abilities. But in an industry that's known for it's casual office environment, and where there is a larger emphasis on work speed than professional appearance, it's easy to let other's perception of us get skewed. Is this something we in the tech industry should be concerned with? Would young entrepreneurs be taken more seriously if they were to focus on their professional image?

14 Replies

Lane Campbell
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Lane Campbell Advisor
Lifelong Entrepreneur
I've been in leadership positions within tech since I was a teen. In my early 20's I had green hair and had no problem commanding authority in front of a boardroom. Confidence comes from within and from experience. Appearance can help build confidence but it's not the only factor.



Ray Sturm
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Ray Sturm Entrepreneur • Advisor
Co-Founder and CEO at AlphaFlow
It's a really interesting question, Kim. My first company, RealtyShares, allowed people to invest in real estate and we quickly found that when people are giving you tens of thousands of dollars, they're not excited to surprise you at your office and find you in shorts and flip flops. Conversely, when coming from certain meetings that required even business casual dress, if I didn't change before meeting with those in the startup community (even VCs) I'd often be seen as an outsider and a "suit" over a true startup person...whatever that means. In the end, I think image and outward attitude can be powerful, but it likely needs to be tailored (no pun intended) to the audience from whom you're looking to be taken seriously.
Kevin Goldstein
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Kevin Goldstein Advisor
IT
My personal feeling is yes, it helps. I don't mean to imply that a suit and tie are always the way to go, perhaps slacks and a collared shirt are appropriate. But when your staff is working in jeans, shorts, t-shirts and sandals, it (IMHO) provides the feeling of speaking with someone who is in charge.

Additionally, I feel that a lot of people feel that skill, experience and personal confidence are what's picked up on, and projected regardless of what you wear. While this is mostly true of the individual we are speaking of, you never know what ideas and stereotypes the people you are dealing with bring to the table. Catering to everyone involved is always a good idea...
John Seiffer
1
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John Seiffer Advisor
Business Advisor to growing companies
Maybe the CEO you mentioned was right - or maybe he had selection bias after he'd spent all that money or maybe after spending the money he FELT more confident and that's why people reacted.

As an angel investor I always discounted it when a young person presented to us in a jacket and tie, because I felt like that's not how they normally dress and they were trying to impress with outward appearances. An older person not so much if it seemed like that was their normal work attire. But if they seemed OK in blue jeans no problem with me.
Nancy J. Lewis, MS, PHR, RCC
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President/CEO at Progressive Techniques, Inc.
You must be confident in yourself and your abilities. In the judgmental world we live in image can have an impact. You must know the culture of your industry and learn how to navigate the image landscape. At the end of the day, why create a barrier someone may have to work through to hear your message when you don't have to. First impressions unfortunately are lasting. Should they be? No. But in reality they often are. One of my favorite Nancyisms is, "Do you because everyone else is taken."
Kathy Keating
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Kathy Keating Advisor
VP Software Engineering at AUTOPAY
I believe it's important for an entrepreneur to cultivate a clear personal brand. Who are you, what do you stand for, what is your personality, how do you communicate, what is your place on your team/community, etc. Our clothing, haircuts, etc are all reflections of that brand.

A person who can clearly and authentically convey their brand within a few seconds of interaction, will be taken more seriously because they will be seen for who they truly are from all these different dimensions.

We want to build synergistic relationships based on our most authentic self. And move on from those that aren't.


Kimberly Lucas
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Kimberly Lucas Advisor
Executive Search Consultant | Social Media Trainer | Talent Acquisition Strategist | Transition Coach | Entrepreneur
The short answer is yes. I don't believe that you need to sport an expensive suit, Italian leather shoes and a Tumo case, but in my opinion you should look like you take care of yourself and pay attention to details - good haircut, socks that match your hemline. Get your teeth cleaned regularly and get to the gym. Look like you take your meetings seriously and press your clothes, wear a collared shirt and deodorant. Pretty simple stuff - but it makes a world of difference in the people you can attract - and the margins you can command.
Dan Dascalescu
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0
Dan Dascalescu Entrepreneur
Developer Advocate at Google
Humans respond to all sorts of subconscious cues.

In the U.S. population, about 14.5% of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58%. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9% of adult men are 6'2? or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30% were 6'2? or taller.

Of the tens of millions of American men below 5'6?, a grand total of ten-in my sample-have reached the level of CEO, which says that being short is probably as much, or more, of a handicap to corporate success as being a woman or an African-American.

An inch of height is worth $789/yr in salary. A 6-ft man earns $5525 more/yr than a comparably qualified 5'5". Compounded over years, this amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If height, which is completely out of your control, matters, then you can be sure that how you dress matters.

Read more athttp://gladwell.com/blink/why-do-we-love-tall-men
Juarez Patrick
0
0
Juarez Patrick Entrepreneur
CExO (Chief Experience Officer) Solenium Spain
It really depends on what country you live in and how each country functions with its image codes, both professionally and superficially. In any case, leadership credibility is crucial for both the internal (employees, collaborators, outsourcing, freelancers) and external (clients, sponsors, members of the board, investors, vouchers, mentors, mergers, joint ventures, strategic alliances) growth of your firm.
Dan Glasscock
1
1
Dan Glasscock Entrepreneur
Product Strategist. Entrepreneur. Investor.
Kimberly,

This is a no brainer. ABSOLUTELY young entrepreneurs are taken more seriously when they focus on their professional image. Decide what image you want to convey and go for it.

Steve Jobs or a Kevin O'Learly look? You decide. Just make sure you are comfortable with the new image and it supports your overall goals. A suite in a web start-up doesn't work.

I once read an article which said that people decide they like you in the first 30 seconds of meeting you. As 90% of communication is visual being dressed sharply can go along way for young entrepreneurs success.

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