Learn to Communicate Confidence and Competence With Your Style Choices
If you have been in a leadership position, you’ll know that the job can be difficult. It took a strong measure of hard-fought experience to bring you to where you are today. While others fell short, you have continually leveled up.
If skills are swords, then they need continual sharpening to keep improving. But hard skills can only be improved so much. Up to a point, the more subtle and advanced “soft skills” must come into play.
In basketball, they refer to soft skills as having high “basketball IQ.” It is having a deeper level of understanding of the game. It is the ability to find the weaker member of the opposing team and exploit that weakness. It is understanding human psychology and then playing with/against it to gain that competitive edge.
One such soft skill is understanding image as power.
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Image as Power
The subject of power for men is a complex topic with many components.
Power does not have form, but it does have function. In its most basic definition, power is the ability to get things done.
Personal power is the ability to act with boldness, competence, and confidence, and is expressed through the results you achieve. That personal output is a measure of your own individual power.
In managing a team, your ability to lead is critical to produce the desired results. Your ability as a leader is then measured through the results of your team, not just your own actions. So, your ability as a leader is measured by how you strategize, assess their unique gifts (and weaknesses), and get them to perform as a well-oiled machine.
To gain an edge, you must go deeper into human behavior to maximize your power in a hierarchical setting. In this setting it is not enough to display competency and agreeableness. To lead effectively, you need to communicate three things:
- You know what you’re doing
- You’re up to the task
- You’re in charge
Confidence, Craft, and Competence
A man makes the clothes, the clothes do not make the man.
“Having a confident mindset is the key to being a great leader,” says Liana Chaouli, Founder at Image Therapist International. “The clothing a man wears only amplifies the leader who is wearing them.”
Keeping that in mind, there are three key traits that your peers and subordinates look for when sizing you up.
First, the thing you need to wear is confidence. The understanding that you have the knowledge, skills, and experience to be where you are. With your chin up, standing straight, looking others in the eye with a relaxed self-assurance is the best image you can project.
The next thing is mastery of your craft. If you are in sales, design, coding, marketing, engineering, banking, or any field where you have had to apply yourself, it will show up in how you project yourself to others.
The final component is competence. When you have earned a demonstrable track record of putting in the “hard yards” to hit your goals and meet your deadlines then you’ll have gained the respect of your peers. It is this quality that makes you a valuable member of your organization.
Each of these qualities are like legs on a stool. When each quality is sturdy and in balance, the stool can support whatever weight you put on it. If one of the legs is weak or missing, then the stool falls over. These are areas that you need to continue to strengthen to become the foundation to your career.
A strong choice of clothes will give form to the power you communicate to others.
“Don’t go with the masses. We look to leaders to project subtle messages. For men in leadership, I suggest thinking about harmony as a projected emotion when picking a suit. My suggestion is to take the color of your eyes. and deepen it as much as possible. For example, a man with blue eyes would wear a deep navy blue, and a man with green eyes would wear a deep teal or emerald green. It is a concept I refer to as wearing ‘your personal black.’ The goal is to remain as neutral and classic as possible while elevating your style,” explains Liana Chaouli.
You also need to consider the cuts and lines of the suit. To do that you need to consider your body architecture.
If you are thick around the middle, then your goal is to minimize the girth of your mid-section by not drawing attention to it. Do not wear a belt that does not blend with the color scheme of your overall appearance. If you wear a light brown belt with navy blue trousers then the color contrast will draw attention to your middle, which is what you do not want.
“Men with a bit of a belly might consider a three-piece suit, so the suit is elongated and not cut off at the widest point,” Chaouli explains further. “Slender men should consider Italian-fit suiting, which is significantly slimmer than traditional tailoring.”
For men who are thin but have sloping shoulders, consider shoulder pads built into the jacket to accentuate the “v” look in your torso. This creates greater physical presence and strength instead of perceived weakness by others.
“Once you figure out your body architecture, it is essential to remember to be age appropriate. There is a difference between having an established sense of style and being trendy. Leaders are established in their own right; having a clear understanding of personal style is key to having that success translate,” adds Chaouli.
Bling and Accessories
On accessories, Chaouli details what she knows from her experience: “Bling, status symbols, and logos distract from leadership because you are no longer focusing on the man but on the brands they are wearing. My saying is, do not let the outfit show up before you do.’ The focus should be on the man in the clothes, not the clothes on the man. However, certain combinations can help you stand out while maintaining a classic appearance. A nice watch that has a nice luster and shine can attract positive attention in the form of compliments. It’s the same with the style of your eyeglass frames or wearing shoes that have two-tone colors that are complimentary to your attire.”
Over-reliance on jewelry or flashy colors as status symbols can come across as attention-seeking. This can devalue your status and position among your peers and subordinates.
Bottom line, use accessories to accent your appearance, but do not overdo it. When in doubt, then just leave it out.
Books and Their Covers
While you cannot judge a book by its cover, you can gain a reader’s attention with a pleasing appearance. That visual entices you to look further and open the book. Without that, then the book remains undiscovered.
By taking control of your image and dressing to convey the power of your position, you are crafting a visual representation of yourself to communicate confidence, craft, and competence. This visual representation of yourself in this framework shows the value you bring to the table. This is how personal branding works.
But it’s critical that you don’t fall into the trap of stressing appearances only. If you do, you run the risk of just being an empty suit.
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