Thursday, April 1, 2021

Does Your Visual Communication Convey Leadership?

When you walk through someone’s door or they walk through yours, your image and presence have an immediate impact. My client and I talked about this as we were discussing visual impact and clothing style for her work in a customer facing role. Whether we like it our not, we're still judging books and people by their covers.

Whether you are leading a team of people in a corporate environment or demonstrating self-leadership as an entrepreneur or executive, the way you look conveys an instant impression.

Our interactions in business now are so much more visual. With the advent of videos, photos on LinkedIn and Instagram and all our social media profiles, the way you look conveys an instant impression.

As I scrolled through LinkedIn, I came across two photos. One of a group proudly displaying their latest awards and another of a group of new graduates who had completed their training. What stood out to me was the blandness – all wearing white or blue tops or shirts. No one had “presence” or popped out with visual appeal or said leader. No doubt they are all great at their jobs but personally I would love to see a bit of je ne sais quoi.

It’s the same story with my client and many others in the business world, playing it safe with the black and white combination of jacket and shirt, whether that is really expressing their style and brand personality or not.

To stand out in business, look good and feel good, it is worth putting consistent intention into your image and visual signature whether working from the home office or out and about. I know if I’m having a bad day, if I put extra attention into how I appear, I will generally feel much better.

Your leadership look needs to be congruent with the work you do. What is appropriate for a CEO speaking at a city conference would be different to a leader in a rural community addressing a group of farmers.

For instance, one conference I spoke at was to a group of franchise owners from various parts of the country, some urbane, city people and others from rural and small towns of varying ages. The visual brand message they needed to communicate was to look like they represented this luxury brand.

It wasn’t appropriate for either group to look too slick or dressed to the nines. It had to be a look that was up to date yet suited them and was appropriate for the market they were dealing with.

Another time I was engaged by a financial services firm to speak on creating a personal and professional brand. The firm in engaging me to present to their team members realised the importance of everyone reflecting the firm’s values and brand through appearance and presence. As some people were dealing with conservative “old school” clients it wouldn’t have been appropriate to be wearing anything that was too outlandish or revealing. 

Most of this is common sense of course, but often we have got into a habit of dressing and haven’t really give it much thought.

If you are a leader in a non-profit sector, dealing with many volunteers, a corporate, formal suit might be too overpowering. Wear simple, smart and well-tailored clothing rather than very casual or you may look like the volunteer rather than the leader. 

Likewise, if you are dealing with high paying clients in a professional environment, your look needs to say credible, polished and looking like an expert.

Combine what is appropriate for your environment with awareness of your audience to create a convincing and compelling look.

Want to know more about creating a compelling leadership look? Sign up for my free video series, NOOK, LOOK, HOOK, 3 Steps to Build a Powerful Personal Brand.

Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal branding and professional presence to help business executives and entrepreneurial professionals communicate with impact and influence. Sue’s suite of services delivered through workshops, consulting, coaching and keynote presentations provides a multi-faceted approach to gain high transformation for her clients.

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