When I was a kid my mom who was attentive to dress and overall packaging, took me places. I accompanied her often as we frequented many Montreal neighborhoods.
I saw a great cross section of both commercial and residential pockets of business leaders. My mom at times would exclaim, “Didn’t they look in the mirror before they left the house?” She was mystified.
I failed to fully appreciate what she was trying to say until much later in my career I realized she was imparting a life lesson even before the concept of leadership brand was in vogue. Basically she was declaring that how we package ourselves conveys a certain message. In essence, we chatted about whether people would garner respect and be viewed as knowledgeable. In today’s world we mean having gravitas or being thought disruptors.
It isn’t about wearing a suit. Every organization has a dress code. There is some degree of fitting in which depends upon the industry and level of seniority. It is actually about finding a balance between being part of the culture and at the same time having a unique or signature look that separates you from the pack.
It is your entire look — from top to bottom. This sounds superficial in so many ways, however people sadly do judge. We are not talking about those employees who expect you to dress or mirror them. I mean think about your entire look? Does it reflect that you take care and pride in your appearance? In every sector investing in your brand matters.
Packaging seriously matters to us as consumers. We seek out products that we interpret as attractive, powerful, compelling or unique. Companies spend millions of dollars conducting focus groups on the look and feel of their products.
Consumers vigorously use social media platforms to declare their divine love or supreme dislike for products. Their voice matters. It isn’t long before a new product is subject to data analytics. This wealth of new information dictates additional modifications in order to sustain purchasing power and stay competitive.
So, back to you. You are a product. This may sound cold or cerebral. One of my mentors explained to me that every one of us is selling something, regardless of whether you are in Artificial Intelligence, the Arts, Robotics, or any other field.
I watch one of my senior clients who is in the luxury car business with delight. She takes the time to shake every single employee’s hand as she crosses his or her path — every employee at every level, including the car mechanics who jump at the chance to greet her. For those who are knee deep in grease, they devised an elbow pump.
She is perfectly poised, dressing in a manner that is executive like but not corporate or staid. As I watched her in action she received both warmth and approachability. At the same time it was obvious that she was their leader.
If you want to make a difference, you must think about how to achieve that combination. You must capture your audience. They should want to hear what you have to say or be excited by your vision. Your entire look must convey a message that you are credible, successful and trustworthy.
As I watch those who invest in their leadership brand and make a difference, I know my mom was right on the money.
This article previously appeared on ChiefExecutive.net.
Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in succession planning and talent management. She can be contacted at email@example.com.