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Hair Within Leadership – Do We Like Her?

Jack Rasmussen is a leader in the worlds of performance science, the food industry, religion, education, and entertainment. Growing up in Silicon Valley and studying Business, Cinema, and Journalism at the University of Southern California has allowed him to explore creative pathways to raise people's vibration and meta-awareness within their respective fields.

 
Executive Contributor Jack Rasmussen

Have you ever considered how someone’s hair can dictate how you perceive them? In any industry, your hair can profoundly affect the vibe you give off. From a pop star to a Jack in the Box manager, how do you know when you take your hair too far? Hair is a beautiful concept. When we change our hair, we change how we feel inside.


Photo of Jack at Tiffany

Nevertheless, some need to conform to certain hair norms, while others like experimenting. I saw purple, pink, orange, and red hair just today. Full head of hair versus bald head? Smooth or hairy body? Facial hair or no facial hair? These are all our choices, but do societal expectations influence them?


I have gone through several different hairstyles throughout my life. First was the bull cut, followed by a shaved buzz cut for most of my teens. Then, I experimented with mohawks and the wavy front tuft. Then, I decided to grow my hair into a mullet. Then I did it again and had a man bun and a ponytail for a while. Now, I am back to a slight fade. Each time my hair changed, I felt renewed and refreshed.

 

Hair is a cultural symbol and measure of time

Doctor Sylvia R. Karasu discusses the cultural significance of hair as one of our bodies' most essential accessories or weapons. Referencing Bernice from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” from 1920, Karasu explains that the bob was a revolutionary hairstyle in the 20th century often associated with controversial acts by women. Hair has a long history in literature, from Homer’s Greek hero, Achilles, to the Roman poet Ovid’s tale of Perseus, who slays the head of Medusa (infamously known for having living snakes as hair), to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, where Samson must reveal that his hair is the source of his strength. Hair is a motif of embarrassment, sacrifice, strength, and love. Hair is also a marker of our time on Earth. Hair also may allow us to differentiate between animals and humans, children and adults, females and males, and illnesses and health (Karasu, 2023).

 

Quality hair is paramount

Dan Rust, Vice President of Global Learning and Leadership Development at Infopro Learning, Inc., and author of Workplace Poker, discusses the value of good hair in business leadership. In early 2014, he revealed that the Harvard Business Review performed a landmark study that found good hair was an under-reported quality of good leadership. The study uncovered that if you put a lousy hairstyle on a great executive, his feedback from his peers gets more negative. Also, bad leaders with good hairstyles went from 22% to 38% in perceived leadership effectiveness over the following six months. Furthermore, 83% of senior executives said mismanaged hair undermines a woman’s executive presence, while 76% said it discounts a man’s performance (Rust, 2014). One’s haircut directly affects perceived leadership performance.


Several female CEOs take pride in their hair as a superhero cape. Angeline Tham, the woman behind Angkas who is revolutionizing the motorcycle taxi service, is rocking a “lob” or long bob. Whitney Wolfe Herd founded the dating app Bumble and sported a honey-blonde lob to match the yellow bee theme of her company. Indian-born Indra Nooyi was the first woman of color and immigrant to lead a Fortune 50 company. Her short hair has become her signature behind her no-BS, on-the-go demeanor. Margaret Zhang became the youngest editor-in-chief of Vogue China. The blogger, creative director, and writer expresses herself through her bright blue wavy hair. The list continues to address so many other thriving individuals. Hair sometimes precedes their role or title, allowing them to do what they do and be who they want to be (BeautyHub.PH Team, 2022).


Photo of a handsome kid.

Hair bias

Despite the versatility of hair, there still exists a lot of hair discrimination, specifically against black women. Although some legislation has been passed in the states to prohibit hair discrimination, hair discrimination still needs to be passed at the federal level. The CROWN Act protects against race-based hair bias against braids, twists, and locs. In late 2022 and early 2023, the CROWN Workplace Research Study surveyed multiple ethnicities. Black women’s hair was two-and-a-half times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional; several black women admitted to needing to change their hair for a job interview, and one-fifth of them had been sent home because of their hair. Also, a quarter believe they were denied a job because of their hair (Asare, 2023). Workplace Culture Consultant Stacey A. Gordon (2023) also points out that even black women with textured hair are two times as likely to experience micro-aggressions in the workplace than black women with straight hair. How can natural hair be perceived as unprofessional even when neat? Although hair can be a sense of pride, it can also be a source of shame or humiliation, as Doctor Karasu pointed out.

 

Don’t cut corners

Some world leaders even need to dye their hair because they do not like grey or salt and pepper. Interestingly, based on 2013 statistics, most of the world was controlled by people with black hair. Also, there is an extremely high number of bald leaders in Africa. Chile was the only country in the southern hemisphere with a blonde head of state in 2015, Michelle Bachelet (Jannuzzi, 2015). We will see how the hair game changes as we emerge into a more evolved future. One could only hope we can see the rainbow.


A man holding a juice.

 

Jack Rasmussen, American Author and Actor

Jack Rasmussen is a leader in the worlds of performance science, the food industry, religion, education, and entertainment. Growing up in Silicon Valley and studying Business, Cinema, and Journalism at the University of Southern California has allowed him to explore creative pathways to raise people's vibration and meta-awareness within their respective fields. He is the award-winning author of Fine Dining: The Secrets Behind the Restaurant Industry (2022) and Yin Yang: The Elusive Symbol That Explains the World (2023). He has worked with the National Science Foundation, California food banks, and international directors to help alleviate food waste and teach cultural literacy, among other expressions of his storytelling interests. He wants to continue to help serve and inspire global citizens to explore the unexplored and become more cognizant of and comfortable with their authentic presence through sharing his own. His artistic aim stays true: spread thought-provoking peanut butter and connective jelly. 

 

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