I was working with a client of mine the other day and he took away his notes of our meeting on the nature and behaviour of leaders with that elusive characteristic, ‘Gravitas”. He kindly wrote them up – for his own benefit, and agreed to allow me to post it in my blog for our benefit too….

“Persons (not ‘people’) with gravitas generally display a reserved, ‘serious’ demeanour with a slightly abstracted gaze. In academia and medicine they are often ‘bookish’ (their spectacles become a useful prop). They dress appropriately, often soberly and, upon occasion (not too often) can offer wit rather than humour. They do not tell ‘jokes’. They appear ‘warm’ and familiar to only a very few intimate friends, or enemies.

Although Gravitas is often something you give or assign to someone else (and may be heightened in the eye of the awed beholder), it is rarely unsubstantiated by evidence. People with gravitas tend to come with a reputation as a heavyweight and a record of genuine accomplishment.

People with gravitas have the patience to listen to a point of view, however daft or incorrect. Above all they are willing and able to be Present. They comport themselves as if they are operating from a position of strength and of power and in full (but unimpressed) knowledge of their surroundings.

Their delivery is slow, deliberate, conveying certainty and profound truths rooted in an inner confidence of their own abilities and expertise.

What is needed:

It is sometimes helpful to use other people as a model. Construct amalgam of many people you have observed and think yourself in the role, like an actor. Who would you choose? Nelson Mandela? Winston Churchill? Isaiah Berlin? Henry Kissinger? Who wouldn’t be your model? Gordon Brown? Tony Blair? George Bush? Jonathan Ross?

Key things to work on

1. Make and retain eye contact.

2. Take your time, pausing before speaking. Use silences to strengthen your eminence.

3. Lower the voice. Speak quietly and clearly, in complete, rehearsed, punchy sentences

4. Be In command of your subject and yourself.

5. Exercise control/ restraint in gesture (no hand waving) and word (no exaggeration or slang)

6. Cite evidence with references

7. Answer only the question asked, unless you are leading them to the (your) point

8. Shut up when you have finished answering the question, or making the pitch

9. Smile rarely (only as a reward)

10. Absolutely no humour – keep it serious.”

Many thanks to him for being diligent. And I hope you reap the benefit too!


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
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