You are a leader, whether you know it or not. You influence people positively and negatively.
People judge you the moment they see you. They don’t have the time or the discernment to easily tell your character.
Related: First Impressions Matter
Do you have dreadlocks? That says something.
Are your earlobes stretched? Do you have multiple earrings? That says something.
Is your makeup too glamorous?
Are your skirts too short or your pants too tight?
Is your body marked with tattoos?
Anything out of what your audience considers modest and natural?
You will pay a price.
Of course, that’s if you care about winning your audience’s ears and hearts.
It’s all about your audience, the people you are trying to influence.
It’s usually never about right or wrong.
It’s about what your audience expects of the leader it will respect.
Are you willing to pay the price they are asking for their respect? They have a right to charge whatever they want.
Are you willing to pay?
Or, will you prefer to fight or ignore them?
If you wear a hoody, that creates a certain picture in people’s minds.
If you have your pants pulled below your buttocks, people associate you with the subculture that does that.
If you have dreadlocks or large holes in your earlobes, people associate you with that community.
If you are clean shaven, dressed in a suit, look like a million dollar CEO, people will perceive and treat you like one.
Profiling may be bad but it is fair. You choose where you want to be profiled: Among the respectable and powerful or among the scoundrels and nobodies.
You cannot escape profiling or eradicated it, no matter how horrible it sometimes is.
But you can choose where you want to be profiled: Among the respectable and powerful or among the scoundrels and nobodies.
How they profile you will determine whether they open or close their ears and hearts to you.
Another secret is that who we are is who we attract. We naturally attract people who look like us and behave like us. Birds of the same feather, flock together.
It’s very easy for you to attract the wrong crowd and repel the people you actually want to attract.
If you don’t examine yourself and weigh the way you appear to your audience, you may spend your time preaching to attract one group while actually behaving and dressing to attract another. And of course, actions speak louder than words. People do what they see not what they are told. You will end up with people who look like you and behave like you.
You may trust yourself with dreadlocks, stretched earlobes, tattoos, and your pants pulled below your buttocks but even you will soon realize that you may not be quite comfortable with the reputation of the crowd you have formed around you.
The way people dress is a visible representation of their thinking process. You can’t see their thought patterns, but you can see their dressing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you are a reggae musician, a professional sports player, a computer programmer, or graphic artist, your crowd will respect and even expect you in dreadlocks, tattoos, tight pants, etc. If you are Mark Zuckerberg, your trademark dressing could be a hoody and you will still become a billionaire that dines with the president of the United States.
But it’s not true for most other areas of calling.
Again, I’m not saying that the audience is right or you are wrong. I’m just stating the reality we have to work with.
Effective leaders don’t live for themselves. They don’t dress for themselves. They don’t even go where they want to go.
Instead, they are slaves to the people they are called to serve.
They dress in a way their audience will approve and respect.
They come down to the level of their audience in speak a language they can understanding.
They use a tone of voice they will accept.
In everything a leader does, she must consider her master, the audience.
Why? Because people don’t listen and learn from the people they dislike.
And audiences can dislike you for doing things you have the right both morally and legally to do.
As a leader, you must choose: Should you fight for your rights or fight for the hearts of those you are called to serve.
Should you dress for your pleasure or dress to win the people.
You can’t have both.
Everything we do says something.
Your dressing matters. A picture is worth a thousand words.
First impressions matter a lot.
They matter to everyone but especially so for the leader who is trying to attract and positively influence people.