What in the heck is gravitas anyway? I realize some of you may have been asking that very question as you read the title to the blog this week. To others it may sound vaguely familiar, but you can’t quite remember what it means.
I get it. It isn’t exactly a word most of us throw around regularly.
It is definitely something you are going to want to learn a bit more about though if you are serious about how others perceive you. Especially if you are currently or hope to be in a leadership position in the near future.
WHAT IS GRAVITAS?
It can be a bit challenging to explain but the Merriam-Webster definition is, high seriousness (as in a person’s bearing or the treatment of a subject).
The word comes direct from Latin and the Romans thought it was a required virtue for any adult male in authority to have this. Even lower level officials or head of households would strive to possess this.
It refers to the way you carry yourself and your ability to remain calm, composed and command authority. It makes people want to listen to what you have to say. It is the thing that causes people to want to pay attention when you speak and draw closer when you enter a room.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Gravitas is one of the components of executive presence. If you are in leadership, or hope to be in leadership, this is a group of characteristics that you will want to develop.
In her book Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, Sylvia Ann Hewlett identifies Gravitas as the biggest piece of the leadership pie, with communication and appearance factoring in, but in smaller numbers.
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE?
First, before you panic about where your current situation might be at, I would recommend getting some honest feedback.
This might come in the form of your peers, a supervisor, or friends. It might be a mix of all of these. Ask how you present yourself. Where is there room for improvement? You might have an idea already of your areas of improvement.
Once you have an idea of some opportunities then it is time to get to work.
Here are a few easy solutions for you to try:
1. Practice Responses – If you get nervous or don’t naturally speak without a lot of pause words (um, uh, ah, etc.), try practicing your responses first. Start either using video, or if that seems too scary then just out loud to begin. Eventually work up to recording yourself and watching the video back. This is super helpful in recognizing speech patterns that you want to stop and also practicing new patterns. Record until you like the way you sound and then practice with a safe person live!
2. Work on Body Language – You might feel super confident about your topic, but insecure body language is going to tell your audience something different. In her Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy talks about the importance of body language and her research regarding power poses.
These are just a few things you can do to start improving your gravitas. I’d love to hear how you were able to build yours.
I have been working on my executive presence for the last several years and gravitas has been a big part of that growth work. I have found that the more I learn about the subject, the more interesting it becomes to me.
If you need additional help with building your executive presence, emotional intelligence or anything mental performance related please get in touch.
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I look forward to speaking with you!