I was recently watching a programme on Sky Arts about how an artist captures their subject. Sue Johnston was the subject in question and as part of the process, artist Christian Hook went to see her in character at a local theatre. Sue read from a script she was learning, taking on the accent and mannerisms of an elderly woman simply using a headscarf. Christian asked if she used the scarf get into character. Sue’s reply got me thinking. She said that clothing was the final touch, but that the character had to come from within.
How do we portray ourselves as leaders? I go to lots of business meetings and, particularly for first meetings, wearing a suit. I do this, now I think about it, because of what others might think, my suit conveys – professionalism? conformity? Culture? I always wear bright socks though, because that’s a bit of the real me hiding in plain sight.
Sometimes we use clothing to hide the real person, a suit becomes a shield – a suit of armour protecting our insecurities and providing a layer of insulation. But perhaps also, the suit is creating barrier, preventing our true self from emerging.
Leadership is something that come from within. Passion, vision, the belief in what is important drives leaders on. If a leader has the confidence in themselves, a suit or a headscarf becomes the finishing touch. If not, a suit can temporarily build a facade, but it can’t replace those things that inspire action. Leadership comes from within. Learn to be yourself and you won’t even need a headscarf.