How to Look Like a Leader

If you want others to follow and respect you as an authority figure, you have to learn how to look like a leader. Self-awareness is the first skill every new and aspiring leader should learn and it all starts with appearance. So, take a moment with me to examine how you present yourself to others and what you need to do to look like a leader.


We live in a visual world. When you lead others – in any capacity – all eyes are on you. The first thing you bring to any team is your presence, which is a combination of serval factors. Your appearance is the most immediate of these factors and one that people notice first.

The benefits of being well dressed are numerous. The most obvious one is a boost of confidence you get when you look sharp. I am sure you experienced this before. Just think back to an event in your life when you were sharply dressed and aware of it. Can you remember how you felt? Can you remember how others reacted to you? Being dressed appropriately for an occasion makes us feel better about ourselves, which in turn boosts our self-confidence.

The bigger benefit of being dressed like a leader is the effect it has on others. Your team members react to how you look and draw conclusions about your other qualities based on your presentation. This reaction is often subconscious, but by being dressed well in front of them, you can turn those reactions to your advantage. You can actually inspire others and command more respect if you know how to look like a leader. So, start examining what you wear and how your clothes make you look.


So, what exactly should you wear? Well, this depends on your environment. The first thing you need to do is to take a good look at your organization and the world you operate in.

Woman Leader

For instance, if you are part of the corporate world, business attire is likely to be the dress of the day. If you are a fitness instructor, you probably need to spend a lot of time in fitness clothes. Even if you manage a trendy teenage accessory shop, there is a certain appearance your team members and clients like to adopt, so be sure you understand what it is. You will always want to dress appropriately to your environment, at the very least at the same level as your team members and at most just a tiny bit better.

What’s important is that your clothes not only reflect your world, but are also clean and fit you well. They need to be relatively in fashion and be presentable. Even if your daily dress is a formal uniform, because you work for an agency that makes those mandatory, ensure that it looks the best it possibly can.


After you took the time to understand the visual culture of your environment, it’s time to get critical. Take some time to go through your closet and decide which clothes are appropriate for a person in your position. Make a selection based on your organization and your environment, but ensure that you use the mirror a lot to have a good idea what others actually see when they look at you. Remember, your appearance will have an effect on your team members and will help you or hinder you from making the right impression. Decide what works and what doesn’t and make plans for future upgrades.

Here is how to look like a leader in four action steps:

  1. Decide what a leader should look like in your environment. Take a good look at the visual culture of your team and your organization. Examine other leaders around you and how they are dressed to understand your environment better.
  2. Go through your closet and make a decision on each piece of clothing that you wear when interacting with others in your leadership role. Be critical. Is it appropriate to your world? Is it in good shape? Does it fit you well? Is it washed out? Is it clean? Is it still in fashion? Get opinions from others to help you decide. Keep what is appropriate and ruthlessly delegate everything else to casual lifestyle. If this means you end up with fewer clothes to wear, so be it. Better a few good looking pieces than many mediocre ones.
  3. Within your budget, make a plan to upgrade any part of your wardrobe that needs to be upgraded. This may be a long term plan, but it needs to be in place. Again, quality is better here than quantity, so plan accordingly.
  4. Make a plan to revisit your closet every 6 months and put it to the test once again. Clothes get old and stretched and sometimes we don’t notice. Make this part of your routine twice a year, perhaps in the spring and the fall, and stick to it.


Being dressed well when being in charge won’t instantly make you a good leader, but it will help you get rid of those things which PROHIBIT you from becoming one. There are other areas to consider here, like body language, speech and personal habits, but we address those in separate articles. Today, it’s all about visual appearance.

Remember, others react to the way you look! You cannot avoid it. Presenting yourself appropriately will have a direct effect on not only how others see you, but also on how they will react to you. This means that just by being dressed for success, you can increase your chances of gaining trust and respect of your team, as well as help motivate them. Others will realize that if you have the skill and discipline to take care of yourself, you probably have the same drive to take care of them.

This will make them actually want to follow you and help them buy into your vision.


As a side note, make sure your hygiene and grooming is also up to pair. This is very important. Being dressed for success is worth very little, if your hair is a nest, your nails are dirty and your body odor makes people run away from you like animals from a fire. Personal hygiene is non negotiable when you are a leader. Part of looking good is smelling good and being clean.


If you want more great tips and techniques on how to be a good leader, including other skills like decision making and dealing with your subordinates, be sure to subscribe to our free leadership newsletter. It’s is packed with important information and how-to steps on all the vital skills that new and aspiring leaders simply must have to succeed!

Any comments from your experience on how to look like a leader? Leave those below!

Greg Bobkiewicz
Gregory Bobkiewicz is a leadership instructor and coach in the Canadian Armed Forces and the head honcho of Online Leadership Network. His military career has taken him all over the world and exposed him to many leadership challenges in demanding circumstances. He shares his passion for leadership with all new and aspiring leaders.


  1. I have an opinion there are a lot of people have interest in leadership but they are in poor situation and don’t even know how to use a computer and smart phone. their technology skills are too poor. it would really be good if you would prepare a project to reach people like them to give them knowledge and skills… to make good leaders in many societies and the whole world as well.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Latest Updates

Related Articles

Tips for Body Language for Leaders

In one of my recent articles I have talked about the importance of dress in leadership. Today, I will address body language for leaders. In the military, we have a phrase: "dress and deportment". By...

How to Lead with Confidence

If you have ever been put in any position of authority, you already know the cold, hard truth about leadership. It's all about confidence. In fact, how to lead with confidence is one of...

How to Put Leadership Theory into Practice

When Greg and I started on our journey of developing our leadership business, we were told by many people that they were very interested in learning how to put leadership theory into practice. We...

How to Manage a Crisis as a Leader

There are many things you need to know when you are in charge of others - how to manage a crisis as a leader is one of them. A crisis is an event which can...