Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Fashion sense & your body: impact on CEO effectiveness

Whenever we discuss how effective CEO’s are at their jobs, there is a tendency to look out for the traditional variables and use them to assess the success or failure of our leaders. Indeed, certain individual variables have traditionally driven the CEO effectiveness debate.  Why should we think about things like fashion, physical appearance, etc. – after all, they have nothing to do with CEO brain power

New UK PM dressing up; leaves many fascinated + bolsters her leadership brand; does it? [Credit:]
New UK PM dressing up; leaves many fascinated + bolsters her leadership brand; does it? [Credit:]
How we traditionally determine, before or after hire, effective leaders:

  • the type of education acquired – an MBA from the Ivy League Universities is a common pre-determinant of leadership success in the business world
  • the character of the leader – this can range from the aggressive, the people respecting Servant-leader type, the aloof and distant, the dictatorial, to the quick-witted and impatient, etc
  • the pedigree of teams below the leader – leaders are judged by the quality of teams they hire. In any case, the team’s quality influences the success or not of the brand. Work is done by the people below the leader and not always by the leader
  • brand power – quintessential leaders bring about or sustain brand success at the organizations they lead
  • bottom line results – all the right work by the leader and the brand power that accrues should result in a healthy bottom line.
  • the culture/OD. re-orientation at the organization – successful leaders have what it takes to successfully implement culture and OD. change whenever they take over the reigns of power. Assuming there is a need for such change.

All the above effective-leader determinants have three things in common:

1. they are tangible
2. they are mostly measurable
3. and more important, they are directly attributable to business success

Such tangible leadership success variables guide leadership choices at interview time as well as performance evaluation for in-post leaders.

Effective CEO’s amongst you will know that your past record influences 80%+ of the decision to hire you. Headhunters, for those that were head hunted, scan your LinkedIn profile for past/current experience and how it relates to the job they want to fill. Education, skills, character disposition, and key accomplishments inform targeting by head hunters and choice by interview panels

While in-post, leaders are judged by the same success variables. For example, the impact on the bottom line, ability to lead change that brings about a positive impact to the bottom line, and impact on brand perception; it is not uncommon in the corporate world to witness brand regression or movement in share price (up or down) immediately after a certain type of CEO is appointed.

We have become accustomed to judging our leaders against the above tangibles.

However, two surprising intangibles apparently influence leadership perception, and ultimately, placement on the effective-leader continuum. Surprisingly, the two factors are:

  • soft in nature
  • not always apparent to the naked eye or easily attributable to leadership effectiveness – the dynamics about such factors happen in a subconscious state
  • given by God and not manipulatable by humans

Dressing-up and the human body – how they influence leadership success:

The way we dress and I dare say look, affect how other people perceive our leadership – either in a positive or negative manner.

New British PM arriving for her first EU summit Oct. 2016 - dressed up? Does it influence your assessment of the PM's pedigree?
New British PM arriving for her first EU summit Oct. 2016 – dressed up? Does it influence your assessment of the PM’s pedigree?

The orthodox amongst you may challenge this school of thought. However, your body and presentation, influence your leadership ranking by others. Apparently, the people around you may not perceive you as effective, if you don’t have certain natural body gifts and/or dress a certain way.

We know that the above is equal to alleging that we are created with factors, over which we have no control, but influence our success or failure as leaders. Height, for example, may influence how others perceive our leadership pedigree and may get us appointments, perhaps undeserved, to high offices. Whether being tall positively affects value-addition to company bottom line positions is beyond the scope of this particular blog – but there is emerging evidence that height, specifically tallness, influences CEO appointment.

The evidence:

A study in America concluded that a successful CEO’s is 2.5 inches taller than the average American.

Theresa May’s love for dressing up has increased people’s fascination with her as a leader – as well as the trust factor in her premiership. Even members of her cabinet are fascinated by her mannerisms – her shoe style is a subject for discussion. These things just earn you that extra ‘kilo’ when it comes to your ‘leadership-weight’. Whether we like it or not, perception affects how you are ranked as a leader – moreover, perception is influenced by intangible factors like dress sense and natural appearance. Please don’t consider investing in cosmetic surgery just as yet.

A real life example: many years ago, I interviewed for a Country Director job, in a francophone nation-state where dressing up is part and parcel of the culture. I later learned that while I was by far the best candidate and did get the job anyway, the panel rated me low for my dressing down at the interview – that was a lesson for me, and I hope you learn from my near miss

As a leader, please remember to keep up appearances, after all, it’s subconsciously used to judge how effective you are at your job – harsh but true!

If you find yourself short on the natural bodily factors, moreover factors that me and you know we can’t control, don’t worry – compensate by dressing-up.  Should you choose to dress up, have a style that is distinctly yours – generic dressing up may not do


4 responses to “Fashion sense & your body: impact on CEO effectiveness”

  1. Very interesting but in most cases minimized. About the height!!! I do not have a comment. What I recall is a time that we had a Director of Finance at my previous workplace who did not perform to expected standard. I don’t think that it was caused by his height!!!


    1. African thanks for reading the blog – height was a surprise to me also and to be honest we need more research on that – it may be an American thing

      On personal presentation though – there is an issue there. Just by looking at Theresa May in the photos and how well presented she is, you subconsciously start to think that she is a smart PM – I think she is


      1. I know why you now appear in neckties and designer shirts. No more short-sleeves with a sweater


        1. 😭😭😭😭😭


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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