4G Leadership: Gravitas – Not Just A $5 Word



Mark Twain memorably said, "Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do."  He makes an excellent point. But in the case of gravitas there simply is no other word that encapsulates this multi-faceted leadership trait.

  1. It's one-part professional image. Your look, your manner of speaking, and your body language all contribute to the perception of gravitas. You don't have to spend a fortune on your wardrobe to be neat with properly fitting clothing. Be aware of verbal tics. Do you pepper your conversation with "um" and "like"? How's your posture? Do you sit in meetings with your arms crossed defensively? Do you race out of the room when a meeting is over or do you stay to build relationships? These things undermine gravitas.
  2. It's one-part professional knowledge. Leaders with gravitas are credible in their field of expertise - and usually in fields beyond as well. They prepare to the point that they can let go and tell the story behind the facts and figures. It is this foundational knowledge that allows the freedom of creative and innovative thinking - two more hallmarks of gravitas. There is nothing more painful and less inspiring than watching someone fumble through their paperwork for information.
  3. It's one-part professional attitude.  Jim Collins of Good to Great  fame observed that Level 5 leaders all possess the traits of humility and respect. Humble leaders need not throw either their weight around, nor their colleagues under the bus. They have a contagious aura of being calm and confident, understanding what value they bring to every situation. They may even recognize that they are not the best leader for certain situations. Leaders with gravitas understand surrendering power is an act that paradoxically makes them stronger.


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