“Leaders look and sound different.”
It’s a phrase that’s commonly voiced in image consulting—and with good reason. Your professional brand starts with the impression you make both at work and away from the office.
This story underscores that message.
Chris was a bright, ambitious twenty-something who worked in the finance world. He had recently been promoted to manage a small team. His office had a business casual environment, and he dressed to fit in. He didn’t think much about “professional image” at work, nor did he worry about how he dressed on weekends when he tended to unplug and dress down.
After a busy Saturday of errands, Chris and his wife decided to have dinner out at a popular upscale casual restaurant. While waiting in the lobby Chris saw one of his new direct reports. She had been with the company for many years and was well respected.
The moment she said hello, Chris realized the consequences of not being thoughtful about his professional image. He had chosen to wear one of his college t-shirts that morning, and didn’t like the impression that the t-shirt may have given his team member. He wished he could have a “do-over.” It was an insightful moment for him as a new leader.
Research shows that people are affected by your appearance, whether or not they realize it, and whether or not they think appearance is important. In short, your visual presentation has consequences.
Being strategic and consistent with your professional image as a leader is work. Commit to it, though, and you’ll never need a “do-over.”
Need help with your own professional image? Polish your presence with our Professional Presence, Image and Etiquette program.