Coveting That Corner Office? Take a Look at ... Your Looks

Coveting That Corner Office? Take a Look at ... Your Looks

You can work hard, put in 200% every single day and log more hours than anyone else at the company.

But it turns out that may not be enough to get you the corner office--you also need to look the part.

As major corporations like Intel and Morgan Stanley start to recognize the importance of the "it factor" when it comes to employees at the management and executive levels, the practice of coaching executives (and wannabe execs) on appearance and presence is a growing business.


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Stefanie Smith, head of Stratex Consulting, a New York City-based coaching firm, told The Wall Street Journal that 75% of her business consists of improving clients' image--from how to dress better to how to appear more decisive in meetings.

But beyond these "coachable" attributes, physical qualities--from weight to hair to facial structure--also play a big part in how executives are perceived. We take a look at seven shallow characteristics that may affect how competent you appear to co-workers. Prepare to be shocked!

What People Look for in a Male Executive ...

1. Slim, Trim and Fit

A study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership found that execs with larger waistlines and higher body mass index numbers were perceived as being less effective. In fact, image consultant Amanda Sanders told The Wall Street Journal that carrying extra pounds can imply weakness or a "lack of control."

The CCL study also showed that executives with BMIs of 25 and under (indicating a person of normal weight) got higher ratings for interpersonal skills and task performance than peers who had BMIs over 25. Additionally, only 5% of CEOs at top U.S. companies are technically obese, although 36% of men in the general population are obese.

RELATED: New Study Shows That Exercise Leads to Higher Pay

2. A More Mature Look

A 2010 study from Duke University, "A Corporate Beauty Contest," found that more mature men (as opposed to men with so-called baby faces) were perceived to be more competent, even though no evidence actually showed that they performed better at their jobs. And, interestingly enough, the authors pointed to other research showing that baby-faced men actually tend to be more intelligent than their more mature-looking counterparts.

3. A Bald Head

A Wharton researcher found that men with clean-shaven, bald heads were perceived as more dominant and stronger than men with fuller heads of hair. Several prominent CEOs seem to be benefitting from the look: Venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos all sport clean-shaven pates.

Note: Sorry, guys, but balding hair doesn't have the same effect--men with patchy, thinning locks were perceived as the least powerful in the same study.

4. Taller Is Better

In one study that polled half of Fortune 500 companies, the average male CEO was three inches taller than the average man, coming in at just under 6 feet. It seems that taller is also better when it comes to salary negotiations and raises: Men who are 6 feet or taller make an average of $5,525 more per year than men who are only 5 feet 5 inches tall.

 What People Look for in a Female Exec ...

1. Fit and Skinny

The effect that weight has on the perception of female leaders is even more pronounced than it is for men. A Michigan State study found that while 45% to 61% of top male CEOs are overweight (possessing BMIs between 25 and 29), only 5% to 22% of female CEOs are overweight. The researchers believe that this discrepancy "reflects a greater tolerance and possibly even a preference for a larger size among men but a smaller size among women.”

RELATED: The Woman With the Highest Earning Potential

2. Not Talkative

While power and volubility go hand in hand for male leaders, women at the top speak much less than their male counterparts. Why? They fear backlash. A study from Yale University affirmed this fear: A female CEO who spoke for a disproportionately longer time than others was perceived as significantly less competent and less suitable for leadership than a male CEO who spoke for the same amount of time.

3. "Feminine" Traits ... But Only for Women at the Top

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that women who come across as sensitive and caring were better evaluated than their male counterparts--but only if they were at the uppers echelons of a business organization. However, the study's authors caution that "successful women may face changing stereotypes as they move up the corporate ladder," and the same characteristics that might be praised further on in a career may be hindrances at lower and mid-level positions.


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