Penelope Trunk wrote a provocative post today, about how tall people are generally more successful at work and make more money. In her post, she begins by arguing that good looking people do better in life than not-good-looking people. No doubt. You can’t refute that. Midway through her post, though, she switches gears and says that tall people are the folks who are more successful. She is equating tall people to good looking people. Okay, I guess P-Trunk likes tall dudes.
Of all the tall people I’ve meet through work and other avenues, the tall ones are ALWAYS the awkward, gangly types. I’m talking 95% here. Yes, I’ve bumped into a few tall VP’s and CEO’s who are decent leaders, but they weren’t the leaders I would follow to hell and back. In fact, I generally find white, male (tall) management types soft and unattractive. The men and women who are TRUE leaders are always the medium sized, highly intelligent, highly socialized, often times physically attractive folks (but not always).
I draw my conclusions from being a professional sports coach, where I’ve coached well over 1000 athletes, and also from working in various tech businesses. Overwhelmingly, the people who are “tall” are not the leaders. The leaders, the ones who are really compelling, are the medium sized peeps. These leaders have traits in common, and here they are:
1. Excellent articulation: True leaders have an excellent capacity to express themselves and put thoughts into words. Not only do they communicate well, but they know what to say and when to say it. They also know when to shut up and let their people talk. In social artistry, we call this calibration. Good leaders are well calibrated.
2. Excellent Empathy: You vibe with your people on an emotional level and have compassion. More than anything, having empathy will bring you followers. This is always combined with #1 above.
3. Excellent body language: Every social artist knows that body language can make up for nearly every physical “deficit” he might have. Only 5’4?No problem. Don’t fidget. Don’t slouch. Stand up straight and project like you’re the fucking man. Great BL will blow away a tall sloucher any day of the week. See my personal example below.
4. Attitude: You’re confident, occasionally cocky, and project an attractive attitude. You’re also cool as a cucumber.
5. Presentation: Not as important in a sports environment, but critical in business. Dress well and sport a great haircut and you’re halfway there. Seriously, simply outdressing everyone gives you a huge edge. Also, don’t just dress well, but dress uniquely.
6. Walk the walk: No question, you have to be talented in your niche and produce the goods when needed. Don’t think for a second you can bullshit your way to success. If you’re a pretender, everyone will know it.
That’s basically it. Forget plastic surgery and lifts to get yourself over six-foot. If you can deliver the goods and cover the items above, it won’t matter how tall you are, and to a certain extant, how good you look. Almost every great leader I’ve ever met was neither tall nor good looking; he or she simply knew what they wanted and fucking OWNED it.
Interesting Personal Example: This happened to me after I wrote the post. I met with a potential freelance client for dinner. He was 6’5 and weighed probably 240 lbs. A big dude. He was also out of shape and had terrible body language. I rocked up with my alpha body language, projected cool, spoke with authority, and blew the guy away. Seriously, my vibe was so alpha that he couldn’t look me in the eye until midway through dinner and he keep playing with his hands. I made in-roads over dinner and by the end he was my BFF. By no stretch of the imagination am I a tall dude.
P-Trunk, I still think you’re hot even though you’re tall and gangly. Don’t get a nosejob, that would be super gay.