How much does physical appearance matter for becoming a successful entrepreneur?


I am in my late 20s with physical height of 4 feet 10 inches (147.3 cm) only and interested to start my business. I look fine but I don't look like "The man" or "The CEO". Most successful businessmen have strong physical appearances. Example: Michael Dell, Larry Ellison etc. I don't know any top successful entrepreneur of my height. I don't know if other people will take a short height business owner seriously. Not sure if employees would like to accept leadship of a short height person. Can a short height person like me make it big in business?

Leadership Business

asked May 2 '11 at 08:05
216 points
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15 Answers


What a great question. Hopefully, people will be looking at your product or service, and not you. I'm in my fifties, and I have heard horror stories of people being rejected for jobs, almost certainly because of their age and appearance. I can't say for sure, but I think it matters much less with startups. If someone is judging your business because of how tall you are, they are almost certainly someone you should not be working with anyway.

answered May 2 '11 at 08:47
Rob Gordon
441 points
  • This sadly is delusional. Now, looks + size is unimportant, but when talking to investors your PRESENCE matters. Charisma, whowever you want to call it. First impression. Trust - you have to appear strong. – Net Tecture 12 years ago
  • I see the posted has been suspended - maybe he was the one who was "delusional" – Rob Gordon 11 years ago


Influence: Psychology of Persuasion by Cialdini will tell you (persuasively) that appearance is in fact important. Your question was specifically how important - and I believe that your product or service is much more important, and that letting a height issue get in the way of your potential success would simply be an unacceptable excuse. Your height will negatively impact the perception of some people, but by becoming successful in spite of this, people will attribute your success to your business, rather than assuming you had it handed to you in life, like they would with a stereotypical-looking CEO. Once you get your first successful business, this could even become a personal branding advantage since you would stand out.

answered May 2 '11 at 21:14
134 points


Physical appearance is important. To deny that would be foolish. Height commands authority. It's the truth. It sucks for those of us that are not tall, but it is what it is.

"They" say thatsome huge percentage of communication is non-verbal. Which mean it lives in the physical. How you look, how you sound, how you smell . . .

Our challenge is to focus on the variables for which we actually have control. I personally am not included to work with someone with dirty nails, bad breath. I can't help it but when someone is grossly out of shape my mind makes certain assumptions. I wish I wouldn't but I do. Unless the person is so brillant that it is hard to ignore, sloppy clothing communicates to me a lack of professionalism and respect for themselves and the purpose of the meeting. These things are diversions from the message that the speaker intends to communicate -- and they can be controlled (or impacted).

Maybe this isn't fair. But it is what it is. And I assume that I am not all that different from others. So, I strive to not let these things that I can control get in the way of the message that I want to communicate.

answered May 3 '11 at 01:03
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • But does it preclude him from starting his own gig and being "the man"? Or just make it something to counter with other strengths? Apart from that unfortunately I agree with you, people buy from people and people judge people on apperance ... – Robin Vessey 13 years ago


Napoleon would be considered a midget today...and even in his days, he was short, very short. yet, he led a nation in his wild quests for glory and blood.

Leadership is about personality, not physique. Of course it doesn't hurt looking like a Spartan from the movie "300", but charisma is not a function of height or muscles, it's personality and there's a vicious trap here. If you doubt yourself -- it'll show and your doubts will be validated by others. If you are sure of yourself -- men (and women) will follow you blindly even along idiotic paths.

How did Morpheus describe it in the first Matrix movie? "Don't think you can, know you can".

answered May 2 '11 at 10:13
Ron M.
4,224 points
  • Likewise Hitler was pretty short (and didn't have blonde hair or blue eyes for that matter) but I wouldn't suggest modelling yourself on either of these leaders :) – Robin Vessey 13 years ago
  • Napoleon was 170 cm tall - definitely would not be considered a midget today. Him being short is a myth. Confusion about his height also results from the difference between the French pouce and British inch—2.71 and 2.54 cm respectively; he was about 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) tall, average height for the period. 13 years ago
  • Paradox isn't the correct term because there's nothing self-contradicting about the statement but I know what you mean so +1 – Davy8 13 years ago
  • you are correct about the paradox not being the right way to describe it. – Ron M. 13 years ago
  • The landscape was different back when Napoleon was around. Napoleon wasn't a CEO of a start-up, and to be a hero and a leader you just need confidence, determination and a sharp mind. I wouldn't exactly call any famous entrepreneur from the early 1900's, 1800's or 1700's attractive. Look at Tesla, Einstein, Newton... all ugly as hell, the appearance of an entrepreneur has changed since then, things change. – Digital Sea 13 years ago
  • Ah - Tesla and Einstein I would not really call entrepeneours. And most startups dont revolutionize the world like Testla did. – Net Tecture 12 years ago


I am 6'5" (and would love to be normal 6' or shorter... only those my height get it) and I had two CEOs about your height. One was a great leader, our company grew 100+ employees in 2 years, and it is still growing 4 years later. Another one had "Napoleonic syndrome" and was a disaster of enormous proportions. Overcompensation, lack of confidence, etc. etc. etc.

Honestly, it is not the appearance. Self-confidence, willingness to learn, curiosity, humility, EQ, and good 'ol hard work trumps anything.

answered May 2 '11 at 09:58
Apollo Sinkevicius
3,323 points


In a perfect world, appearance should not have any impact on your overall skills. From experience, this is unfortunately not the case. If you are tall, strong and beautiful, you will have what you are looking for more easily. In your case, you will have to work harder and smarter. If you are successful, you will however have double merit! This is the same for women...

answered May 2 '11 at 19:41
161 points


The "successful businessmen" you comment on having "strong physical appearances" have them, not because they are tall, but because they are strong. I don't mean they can lift a heavy barbell either. They are strong of will, strong in their presence, strong in their commitment to success. I promise you if you asked your favorite 100 most successful business people, 0 of them would attribute their success to their height.

answered May 3 '11 at 09:00
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points


I know CEOs that are short, I wouldn't worry about it.

Its the drive, attitude and interest the engages people.

I have been to trade shows and seen all types there. If your short, either ignore it or make a feature of it ... they key external goal is to be remembered (ideally positively), and the key internally is to be respected for what you do and the vision you have.

Bill Gates looked like a complete geek not a hero but he did just fine.

answered May 2 '11 at 10:14
Robin Vessey
8,394 points


I believe height is a factor. Taller people are indeed seen as better. Nevertheless, these things will get you in the door but not sustain you. You need to have skills. In some cases these are hard skills, like chemistry, technology and such. But at other times it's just soft skills. Soft skills will and do get you promoted.

This is what many CEOs do best. They are very competent, people - some because they are tall and good looking. Still, I'd never say that looks alone will make you successful. Plenty of good looking people fail as actors and models - not to mention all the other ways people fail; both tall and short.

Be comfortable in your skin, and don't let anyone convince you that who you are less than someone else. If you learn to communicate well then you have a greater chance at success. What is success anyway? Gets me thinking of that Rudyard Kipling poem - IF.

answered May 8 '11 at 16:52
11 points


I think the single most important trait you should have and that you should transmit to others is self confidence. If you have that and a proactive personality, others will follow your lead.

Over the long run, this will matter more than the initial impression that others have of you based on your physical appearance.

answered May 3 '11 at 22:12
Miguel Buckenmeyer
482 points


I think it matters. Your appearance matters a lot in just about everything you do from meeting with clients to your own employees.

Having said that, being an entrepreneur is about overcoming obstacles, and a diminutive appearance is just one out of a 1000 standing in your way, so it isn't a big deal. You will have much bigger problems to worry about if you are going to have a serious business.

answered May 4 '11 at 02:56
1,821 points


Of course you can. It's all in your attitude and your approach. People like passion, a genuine person who exudes confidence and someone who takes what they have and creates great things.

Instead of focusing on your limitations, create wonderful things that people want.

answered May 2 '11 at 09:34
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points


"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

answered May 3 '11 at 12:23
Susan Jones
4,128 points


If you want to climb the ladder then yes. You need to be good looking and know how to play the game.

On the other hand, if you are entrepreneur, it's more about how you can deliver value. Most rational business associates are smart enough to overlook issues like look, race, and etc. It's about how you can deliver.

answered Jan 11 '12 at 06:19
1 point


All thing said, there is no denial appearance does matter to some extent when you fix up high profile meetings. It may not matter once your company is well established, in a initial phase yes, it does matter. The extent is small. You need to overcome this by demonstrating expertise in your domain areas.

You need to be confident about your self, your product / services and your company. You can have a COO kind of guy who leads the meeting and you are in the background. I do feel that for a start up, it does matter.

answered Jan 11 '12 at 13:12
Natwar Lath
294 points

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