The Gravitas & Grit Series: Part 2 “Deliberate Gravitas”

“I gravitate towards gravitas” Morgan Freeman, actor

Gravitas is defined as “dignity, solemnity and seriousness of manner.” In business, people with gravitas are seen as intelligent and serious; they unconsciously command respect. While the degree to which gravitas is valued within a particular organizational culture may vary, gravitas is useful to have, and arguably essential for effective leadership.

People may or may not automatically have gravitas as part of their personality; however it can be acquired. Following are a few ways gravitas can be helpful.

How you fight the battle is as important as choosing the battle. Once you’ve determined which battle to fight, you’ve got to figure out the way to fight it. Understand who you need in your corner, how to collaborate effectively, how to navigate governance and culture – all while making progress. And never forget to keep your wits about you and stay calm: the use of diplomacy and tact, even in difficult conversations, will work to your advantage. And while losing is not desired, it happens to all of us on occasion – and it is then that gravitas is most helpful. Best to be grouchy and annoyed in private.

Does what I’m thinking need to be said, now, by me? Too often we are actively thinking about responses instead of actively listening to the speaker. In addition to active listening, make a conscious choice about speaking. Knowing what to say, when to say it, and to whom, is an important dimension of cultivating gravitas – both verbally and electronically. Words cannot be unsaid (or “untyped”).  Waiting a beat (or 2 or ten) to consider the right words can save days, even years, of regret.

Know the customer of the moment, in every interaction: When preparing properly for an interview, you research the company as well as the people with which you’ll meet. When starting a job, you learn who your customer is and how to best meet or exceed their expectations.  In every meeting, even informal hallway conversations, know who the customer of the moment is and consciously consider the degree of gravitas required. With someone you know well and have a friendly relationship with, it may be OK to be a bit light-hearted and casual. However, with people you don’t know well, the default should be demonstrating gravitas in your words and actions. In many ways, we are always interviewing for the job we have and the one we hope to attain.

Be authentic. We are all individuals. Developing gravitas does not mean being hard-hearted or quelling the less serious aspects of our personalities,. Developing gravitas means knowing the degree to which seriousness, diplomacy, knowledge and thoughtfulness should be applied in professional settings and interactions.

Deliberate on the level of gravitas required to develop yourself and increase your contribution. Gravitate towards the right gravitas.

“Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness or oppose with firmness.” Charles Hole

Worth considering:

I was picking up a young family member at school, and while waiting for them in the lobby, I noticed the walls were papered with “kindness squares.” Each square had a picture and words of what it means to be kind. They included “hold the door open,” “tell someone they did a good job,” “hug my sister,” and “love my cat.” Courtesy, praise, , caring – sounds good.



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