Does Size Matter in Business?

A reader asks:

You’ve repeatedly mentioned your stature before and I think it must at least be a sticking point that helps people remember you, a de facto personal brand. Do you think your height has truly contributed to any measurable portion of your success thus far? I’m asking this as a five-foot-five, 140-pound 20 year-old, not because I’m concerned my height might be a hindrance or get down on myself because of it, but because I’m intrigued by it. I’m just curious about your take on it.

I’m 6′ 4″, 210 lbs and I say height doesn’t really matter, in the long run, but it certainly can make the path to a leadership position a wee bit easier. I would imagine dealing with short syndrome is like walking into a large restaurant buffet as a vegetarian — some of the dishes won’t be suitable for you, but most will be just fine. In business, some old-timers will discriminate in an ode to their high school basketball days, but most people are smart enough to not care.

He is right that an unusual characteristic can help people remember who you are. My advice to people who are “average” in outward physical appearance is to create some kind of distinction. Wear bow ties, for example.

I don’t know a lot about the Napolean complex. The reader above had to preempt possible suspicion that he feels inferior because of his height. I wonder whether simply being self-conscious about it is enough to affect behavior in group settings.

There are certainly more rigorous analyses. I am looking forward to reading this book which has been hovering on my Amazon wish list for some time. Paul Krugman discusses height explicitly (are Americans getting shorter?) in his column today; David Brooks does so in the context of designer genes.

6 Responses to Does Size Matter in Business?

  1. harsh shah says:

    I think it’s an interesting fact that Stephen Schwarzman, as the WSJ noted on Wednesday, is 5ft 6inches.

  2. maria says:

    I’ve always wondered how the height thing might apply to women in business. Has anyone ever studied whether female executives are measurably taller than the rest of the population? Or maybe it’s something else. Here in Japan, it’s frequently said that the really good-looking girls get the best jobs. I wonder what it could be in the West.

    I used to have my hair streaked purple – that certainly helped people remember me. Now that I’ve gotten past that age, I think I’ll just capitalize on long black hair.

  3. Ted says:

    I recently attended a board meeting and I was astounded at the number of 6’+ people there. I’m 6’2″ and usually taller than normal, but I felt strangely average at this meeting of powerful people.

  4. Chris Yeh says:

    Only tall guys think height doesn’t matter. The short guys will tell you that they’re always aware of the issue.

    At 5’11”, I’m very much on the borderline.

  5. Brian says:

    I’m 6’9 and believe that height may help to a point. Beyond this point, however it becomes an obstacle. People often think I have it easy because I’m tall and therefore go out of their way to avoid helping me. However, I think how our height impacts our behavior has a bigger impact on our sucess than anything else.

  6. Devin says:

    You’re right about remembrance: at least twice when you’ve come up there has been a “I didn’t realize he was so tall” comment.

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