Of the three areas of Executive Presence, gravitas is arguably the most elusive. What is it? How do you know when you have it? I like thinking of it as having “gravity” in its core. There’s a “weight” and a “groundedness” to it. Gravitas is really about how comfortable and confident you are in your own skin and how others perceive you. You can “feel confident”, yet others can characterize you as “cocky” or “arrogant.” Gravitas refers to this element of having a richness and depth to your expression and a way of reaching out to others that allows them to feel at ease with you, to trust you, to have confidence in you, and describe you as deeply connected to the organization’s goals and messaging.
What elements of gravitas can you inspect, evaluate, and improve?
This one is the most challenging to define and change, but it can be done. Here are some areas you may want to explore:
- How do you breathe? Effortlessly or with challenges? Do you hold your breath?
- How fast do you talk? What do others tell you or think about your pacing?
- Do you connect on message with your audience and how do you know?
- Is your voice rich and resonant or pitchy and distracting?
- Is your gait comfortable and comforting?
- Is your eye contact warm and expressive and appropriately consistent?
- Do you convey strength, warmth, and a sense of mission?
- Do you connect with others?
- Do people see you as authentic?
- Do you express ideas, strategies, and plans that others are eager to embrace?
- Do you create enthusiasm and responsiveness in the people you interact with?
- What would people say about you when you aren’t around?
- What kind of a leader are you?
- What’s the most definable characteristic the people attribute to you? What adjectives do they use to describe you?
Gravitas is this depth of personality conveyance and connection … this merging of you and others concretely and metaphorically, in a real, human sense and in a spiritual, caring “on the same page” sense … a coming together of mission, passion, and results. It’s a sense that you are human; that you have a sense of humor; that you can be counted on in the tough times to make the right decisions and stick around for the ride. You exude the qualities that allow others to willingly and eagerly follow you and collaborate with you without reservation. That’s the evasive and pervasive nature of gravitas. When someone has it, everyone knows, but they often don’t know what it is. When you don’t have it, no one can tell you how to get it. Gravitas is like that … it’s an overarching quality that makes or breaks a leader. That’s why it’s so important to assess and cultivate it.