Even the dress makes the leader: how to dress to be authoritative

By | 04.01.2021

Give me a tie, and I’ll raise the balance : this is the mantra of the modern leader. According to recent studies, in fact, it seems that wearing formal and well-finished clothing at work positively affects the performance of a professional .

The reason?

Feeling elegant and authoritative in the look increases self-esteem and increases awareness of one’s abilities. At the same time, communicating or negotiating with a well-dressed interlocutor triggers the feeling of dealing with a true professional and makes relationships more mature, loyal and fruitful .

A mix of benefits verified by an in-depth analysis co-conducted by Michael W. Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management: the scholar examined a sample of over 100 men between 18 and 32 years old, observing them during a trading simulation.

The guinea pigs, divided into different groups only for the clothing worn, obtained significantly different results depending on the outfit . Formal-looking groups were more convincing and effective in negotiation, resulting in more sustained revenues. On the contrary, the portion of the sample dressed in casual clothes more often showed a submissive attitude, failing to assume a dominant and winning position in the negotiation.

But that’s not enough: in addition to greater confidence in managing relationships, dressing up as a leader helps you feel that way even in the approach to work. As in a process of subtle self-conviction, assuming the appearance of a manager induces the brain to identify with the role, neglecting, for example, the details – vice of the insecure micro-manager – and observing only the big picture and the strategic aspects.

This evidence was examined by a second “look and performance” study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. According to this analysis, those who wear formal clothing project themselves into the shoes of an executive and behave as such, managing and maneuvering the moves from a higher perspective. Conversely, the colleague who loves to wear jeans and a T-shirt even in meetings, will probably pay the price of his love for comfort feeling more inclined to deal with details and operational activities.

Be careful, however, not to exceed: from elegance to out of place the step – with an attached slip – is short.

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Evaluate the degree of formality in the look based on the environment in which you operate.

In a consultancy company where men’s suits are a must, for example, to raise the rate of elegance add detail such as a tailored coat or a pocket square. For women, this can mean wearing a high-heeled shoe for an important meeting with a client: setting a tone, dressing more formally in crucial moments, helps to keep self-esteem high and to get into character.

In an informal environment, such as a digital start-up or a communication agency, on the other hand, avoid appearing out of context, modulating the look according to social conventions. No formal suit for men, who can correctly interpret the meaning of elegance with casual trousers in pure cotton, a neat shirt, and a blazer. For women, when an extra touch of determination is needed, wearing a jacket can make the difference.

In all cases, remember not to overdo it, applying the rule of “plus or minus one” according to which only one element is enough to make a difference. If your colleagues are already wearing the shirt, you add the jacket. If they always wear a jacket as well, go up one step with a tie. If the clothing is often formal for everyone, show off a precious watch.

Step by step, affirm your elegance and your authority as in a lucid conquest: slow, but inexorable.

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