Leaders can wear anything from battle armor to, well, nothing (remember “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?). A recent study indicates that maybe leaders (and their team members) should be wearing more white lab coats. This is called the lab coat effect.
Two researchers at the Kellogg School of Management found that people who wore a white lab coat displayed significantly higher selective and sustained attention than those that wore their own clothes. Interestingly, when told the white coat belonged to a painter, participants in the study didn’t perform quite as those who those who imagined themselves as scientists. So it’s not just the clothes that matter, but who we image ourselves to be in them.
Do you feel smarter when you wear glasses or feel more confident in a suit? The quality of your work and leadership may be more tied to your clothes than you realize. Even if you don’t feel like it affects your work or leadership, others likely do and their assumption bias does matter. Harness the power of social contagion and positive contagion. Wear something new that will give you a boost of confidence, just read about how the coat closet fits into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.