Appearance Does Play Some Part in Leadership Roles for Executive Women

Despite the famous adage saying, “beauty is only skin-deep,” executive women need to be mindful about how they look. How you present and the way you communicate will determine how successful you are.

Appearance can present a double-edged sword for career women

For businesswomen, their presentation can be a very ambiguous aspect of their professional life. Despite the perspective that looks and the way women dress should not be related to performance, it still plays a huge role in job hiring and promotions of women.

With appearance offering benefits, how can women tip the scale for their own advantage? Though there’s no clear-cut answer, the best strategy is to dress according to the job. Obviously, too much makeup or clothes more fitting for afterhours or weekend wear should not be worn to work and will not leave a favourable impression that you are serious about your career. On the contrary, having a neat hairstyle and professional clothing connotes professionalism. Selena Rezvani, a leadership consultant, recommends that women should dress more according to the industry they are working in, and less on their personal style. One example of this is Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer, whose conservative suits show femininity, without compromising her message. Furthermore, her formal attire demonstrates leadership in the IT industry where casual wear is the norm.

Apart from their appearance, women can go further in strengthening their leadership in the corporate world. This can be done by channelling an executive presence.

Look like a leader with executive presence

Aside from physical appearance and clothing, projecting an executive presence involves the way you behave and speak in front of your colleagues and clients, according to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder of Center for Talent Innovation, a think-tank group in New York in the U.S.

To convey an executive presence, women need to demonstrate gravitas in their behaviour. This entails displaying confidence in stressful environments, as well as exhibiting decisiveness, integrity and empathy. In terms of communication, this includes the non-verbal cues and body language that women use in talking to others. When giving a presentation, it is essential to maintain eye contact with your audience and to establish a connection with them. For those using PowerPoint presentations, Hewlett recommends knowing your material and rely less on the slides. Engage and communicate more with your audience and you will help them become more interested with the topic that you are discussing.

Demonstrating your leadership skills, professional behaviour and effective communication skills, along with a polished appearance, will help women attain promotions including executive positions. If you want to be a leader, including a Partner in a professional services firm, dress and act like one; don’t wait to be appointed to the role before you change the way you present.  You could be waiting longer than is necessary.




Winner of Inaugural Behind Closed Doors “Not For Loss” Adelaide Scholarship Announced

The CEO of the Mental Illness Fellowship South Australia (MIFSA), Natasha Miliotis is the winner of the inaugural Behind Closed Doors’ (BCD) “Not for Loss” Scholarship in Adelaide for 2015.

Ms Miliotis started in her first management position as MIFSA’s CEO, having never been a senior worker, Team Leader or a Manager.  She will look to use the experience to open new doors, tap into the minds of some of Adelaide’s most influential leaders and broaden her horizons.

Founder and Managing Director of the respected professional development and mentoring company Donny Walford, said the 12-month scholarship was awarded to a successful female executive in the NFP sector to further expand and challenge their current leadership and business practices to further enhance the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of our society.

“Not for Loss organisations play a vital role in our society and are the social fabric that holds our community together.

“Ms Miliotis accepted the challenges and the joys of leadership without the usual preparation of studies in management or scaling of a career ladder.  She hit the ground running as CEO and started with the simple premise that if her staff were bursting through the door everyday excited to be at work, then everything else would follow.

“The BCD Executive program will provide Ms Miliotis with a professional sounding board and support network where she can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encourage other members to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments,” Ms Walford said.

Ms Miliotis believes the BCD Executive program will assist her by offering access to a support network outside of the charitable, non-government sector and enhance her leadership and service to MIFSA.

“The challenges which executive women and leaders face on a daily basis are many and varied and the opportunity to be able to share and reach out is tantalizing. I expect and hope to also contribute to conversations where my experiences are relevant,” she said.

The runners up for the BCD Not for Loss Scholarship are Tiffany Young, Co-Founder and Business Director at The Jodie Lee Foundation and Kyp Boucher, Area Operations Manager at Life Without Barriers

Swimming with the tide: Understanding the global factors that shape Australian businesses

Globalisation and technology are changing the way we do business

Today’s methods of doing business have changed largely due to the impact of globalisation and increasing interconnectivity. Australian companies that have made a mark within their marketplace are being acquired by multinational corporations. With the country’s free-trade agreements, local enterprises can now expect competition from imported products and digital services, which can affect their long-term business. Apart from this, there is also the growth of technology, which has permanently altered the traditional process of doing business. Commercial and banking transactions have shifted online. Customers now have better access to information, making them savvier when bombarded with advertising. If companies want to earn their trust, they need to change the way they pitch their products and services to them and the public.

To ensure sustainable growth, some companies are shifting from having a product-centric approach to one that is customer-centric. Product-centric firms tend to prioritise the quality of their products to generate sales. Meanwhile, customer-centric enterprises focus on what the customer needs before developing products. They also strive to be responsive to their customers’ individual queries and feedback. This can build customer loyalty, and support long-term sales.

As such, customer-centric enterprises work hard to study their customers by using technology to monitor their behaviours and interactions, storing them in customer relationship management (CRM) software. They are also turning to social media to gauge customer sentiment and feedback, and are relying more and more on digital technology to serve customers all around the world.

All these changes can make a local entrepreneur feel seemingly out of touch. However, entrepreneurs must act on these shifts for their business growth to avoid insolvency. Let’s take a brief look at how these global factors affect the long-term aspects and the day-to-day operations of Australian businesses.


Technology has been permeating various industries across the world, altering the structure of their business models. With the internet, some companies such as Airbnb and Netflix are changing the way services are provided in the travel and entertainment industries. The advent of 3D printing has transformed the manufacturing industry, while introducing problems related to intellectual property. Emerging technologies such as wearables and Bluetooth low energy transmitters offer companies a potential to personalise customer transactions.

However, about 70% of small and medium enterprises in Australia fail to take advantage of technological developments to advance their business, according to the Culturing Success report from Microsoft. With the fear of failure, these businesses overlook the opportunity to use innovative technologies that could streamline their operations and enhance their relationships with customers. To stay ahead of their competitors, Australian enterprises should begin to explore emerging technologies and increasingly integrate these into their business operations.


Due to globalisation and free trade agreements, Australian businesses are seeing tight competition with goods from other countries. Overseas manufacturers can sell their products at a lower price, which can put Australian producers at a disadvantage. Furthermore, multinational corporations are constantly expanding their territory in the country by acquiring smaller businesses, and making the market tighter for local competitors.

To stay competitive, Australian enterprises can work to differentiate themselves and offer a unique selling point to the consumer. For instance, a local textile manufacturer partnered with Australia’s national science agency to produce a three-dimensional, moisture-absorbing fabric. The company also ensured that the material is comfortable and it can be produced en masse. This caught the eye of a multinational corporation, which is now using the fabric in the production of nappies.

Australian enterprises are also recognising how technology is changing customer interactions, and have begun using it for their advantage. The four major banks in Australia are tapping into mobile payment apps to meet customer needs. Meanwhile, Telstra partnered with Ericsson to introduce a new optical network that can support the high-bandwidth activities of its customers and withstand disruptions from natural disasters.


The traditional way of push advertising is no longer effective for marketing since audiences have learned to tune them out with better access to information. Through the internet, customers nowadays are savvier in their purchasing decisions. Nevertheless, Australians are more likely to purchase a product or a service when it is recommended by their family or friends. Customers still find word-of-mouth information trustworthy, and companies need to capitalise on this to enhance marketing.

Aside from this, businesses also need to engage their audience, and appeal to their human side. To win their attention, Australian companies need to have a customer-centric approach in their marketing. This will entail the use of compelling and useful content to suggest solutions to existing problems, instead of emphasizing what a certain product or service can simply do. They should also explore social media advocacy, where influential people on social networks are encouraged to try their products and offer recommendations, often marketing their products to their followers. In this way, they are establishing a relationship, and not a one-way transaction with their customers.


Due to a shortage of tech talent, more and more enterprises in Australia are hiring online staff and outsourcing work. About 160,000 businesses in the country have hired over 84,000 people online, according to the statistics of ABC Technology + Games. This can be advantageous for small and medium enterprises in pursuing growth. It allows them to expand their operations for less when they outsource to another country. This enables them to access new market opportunities and new clients. It also helps them to save time by outsourcing other tasks, allowing enterprises to focus on strategies that will drive growth. Having offshore staff also helps SMEs to be responsive to their clients 24/7, allowing them to provide efficient customer service and remain competitive.

For Australian businesses, it may entail a rethink of organisational structures and workplace management strategies now that certain departments or teams are situated offshore or overseas. Australian companies need to be smart in maximising the talent of their local and offshore staff, to achieve growth for their businesses.



Being Genuine Matters For Business Growth

Authentic LeadershipThe theory of authentic leadership

Put simply, authenticity means being ‘real.’ It means being true to yourself, sharing your thoughts and taking responsibility for your mistakes.

In the professional world, many prescribe to the adage that ‘leadership is acting;’ where managers demonstrate a goal-oriented behaviour at work and leave their true personality at home. However, there is a disadvantage in having this kind of attitude. Your employees may not trust you if they cannot connect with the real you, and they may find it easy to leave your organisation once the opportunity presents itself. As a result, your business loses valuable talent, which is crucial for long-term success. To encourage them to stay, you need to be genuine in how you relate to them and in how you lead.

In an interview of 125 leaders, the Harvard Business Review found that there’s no certain personality that makes an individual an ideal leader. However, all authentic leaders possess self-awareness. That is, they draw from their life experiences in leading others. When they run an organisation, they lead with their values and principles, and have compassion for the people they work with. Rather than focusing on profits or performance targets alone, these leaders are motivated to make a difference in the lives of their colleagues and on the company. For them, business growth and profits will follow.

Take for instance Ann Mulcahy, chairman and CEO of Xerox. When she was handed the reins of the company, it had USD$18 billion in debt and all of its credit lines have been exhausted. Furthermore, Mulcahy did not have any experience in finance, research and development, and manufacturing. What she had at the time was 25 years of experience working in field sales and corporate. Nevertheless, she leveraged the relationships she had built over the course of her career, and rallied executives and employees to make sacrifices to save the company. She herself made trade-offs and even lost two of the company’s executives in the process. In the end, she was able to save Xerox from bankruptcy and pay USD$10 billion of its debt.

Being authentic means application of lessons from your life experiences, values, beliefs, and using them to make a difference. Daniel Vasella, CEO and chairman of Novartis, had a difficult childhood due to the many illnesses he had suffered. From here came his passion to produce pharmaceutical products that would cure various types of diseases, which in turn brought success to his company.

Authentic leadership pays off

Apart from the examples above, there is proof that authentic leadership benefits business. In a 2013 study published at the Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology, it was found that authentic leadership contributes to employee satisfaction, engagement and the willingness to put in extra effort. Authentic leaders are also able to inspire employees to be more creative and innovative in their work. This is especially important in today’s digital world, as your employees influence the public perception of your company through their own digital footprint.

The 2013 study also found that authentic leadership contributes to a flexibility-oriented organisational culture, and a sharing of values and principles between you and your employees. When you have this kind of culture, your company will work hard to respond to the needs of your customers and create long-lasting relationships with them. Your organisation will interact with your customers, consider their feedback and meet their expectations when doing business with them. If something goes wrong, your employees are more likely to suggest a solution, and win back customer loyalty.

When Starbucks experienced massive growth, it lost its grassroots approach to business. The company realised this and worked hard to restore its “neighbourly feel” to its stores, where customers felt listened to. Starbucks launched the to encourage customers to submit their suggestions on store improvement and to put their needs first. By rebuilding its relationship with its customers, the coffee chain maintained its growth.

Tips on being an authentic leader:

1. Walk the Talk – An authentic leader will play a hands on role when needed and works together with their employees.

2. Be mission-oriented – You can earn the trust of your employees and your customers when your work is focused on the mission and goals of your organisation. To become an authentic leader, you need to set aside self-interests, and work toward fulfilling organisational goals.

3. Create a sense of community – To be an authentic leader, establish relationships with the people that you work with from the top to the newest and youngest employees. Demonstrate empathy, and empower every employee to reach their full potential. As you do, you may be nurturing the future leaders that will further bring your company success.

4. Own up to your mistakes – It is simply inevitable to commit mistakes as you run your company. Rather than blame others, take responsibility and be accountable for your actions. This will show your employees that you are willing to learn and improve. By setting this example, they will also be inspired to improve their work.

5. Take care of yourself – In order to have the right mindset for leadership, you need to take care of yourself too. Sleep well, exercise, have a balanced diet and surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family and mentors who will encourage you and teach you new perspectives on life. As a leader, you need to nurture your physical, mental and emotional health.


Never miss one of Donny’s blogs, subscribe today.