Why Leaders Should Dress “One Level Up”

How do you dress for success?

When I was in the military, I never wondered what to wear to work. Depending on my duty location, I had three uniform choices.

When I worked in the Pentagon, I wore my “Class A” uniform. The Class A uniform was equivalent to a suit.

As I prepared to retire, I worked a with an outplacement firm. The program offered sessions on how to successfully transition into the civilian workforce. One of the sessions offered was on dressing for success. The focus of the session was dressing for a successful interview.

In preparation for my upcoming interviews, I purchased three business suits. I followed all of the advice I received during my training. When I went for my interview, I looked like I stepped out of the training manual. After conducting several interviews, I was hired as a science teacher.

When I became a teacher, I wasn’t sure how I should dress. Why? Because I’d never had a professional job outside the military. It had been 20 years since I had to think about what I was going to wear.

So, what did I do? I followed the advice of my mentor. She gave me two pieces of advice about dressing for success.

First, it’s always better to be over dressed than under-dressed. Second, always dress one level up.

While I understood being overdressed, I asked her to explain the “dress one level up.”

My mentor explained I needed to observe how my boss dressed. For example, if I attended a barbecue at my boss’s house, instead of wearing jeans like my friends I should dress like my boss. Why should I dress like my boss, I asked? She explained, you want your boss to see you as his or her replacement, therefore you need to look like the boss.

As a new teacher, I decided to dress like my principal. Every day I dressed as if I was still working in the Pentagon. I wore a suit or dress. On Fridays’, I wore a button-down school shirt and khaki pants. When I stood in the hallways, parents and students would ask if I were the principal.

As the senior leader of my organization, I still follow my mentor’s advice. Our appearance sets the tone for how people will initially respond to us. To achieve success, you must dress the part.

When I coach young leaders, I share my mentor’s advice with them. I also share a quote from one of my favorite leaders, Zig Ziglar, who said “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”

To achieve your dreams, start by dressing for success.

How do you dress for success?

Your friend,

Dr. Kim Moore, guiding YOU to lead with confidence!

Dr. Kim Moore

Kim d. moore

Enter your first name and email address for FREE leadership guidance!

Powered by ConvertKit

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.