I recently posed the question ‘how does gravitas occur?’ to CEO’s of 3 significant companies on the ASX and their response may surprise you.
I asked them to describe their definition of ‘gravitas’ using 3 adjectives and 5 words were common to everyone in the group:
Leadership | Authoritative | Measured | Controlled | Credible
So what is ‘Gravitas’
Gravitas is a Latin word meaning “weight or heaviness.” It came to mean a figurative weight after gravity acquired a primarily scientific meaning. A biography of Abraham Lincoln will inevitably show his gravitas, and places like libraries, museums and university buildings seem to have gravitas, or dignity, while grocery stores and gyms usually do not.
Gravitas was one of the Roman virtues, along with pietas, dignitas and virtus. It may be translated variously as weight, seriousness and dignity, also importance, and it connotes a certain substance or depth of personality.
How do you recognize gravitas?
Most of the discussion that ensued with the CEO group, centered on the question of the ‘air’ that a person carries with them into a room. One person commented that an authoritative person is obvious before having spoken.
The general view was that a person transfers a feeling of competence, calmness and expertise in the way he or she acts as default behaviour. Another thought was that a person leading with authority often has the gravitas quality. Gravitas is not necessarily a common trait in most organizations, however some may have more than others, for example in medical fraternities or the judicial system.
Is it vital to have gravitas to be successful?
Of course not. Gravitas is a human quality, like the gift of being very naturally numerate or scientific or having a wonderful singing voice or acting ability.
Gravitas is one human characteristic that seems to be aligned to many successful community figures, be they in leadership, politics, sport, the arts…….ask yourself, who do you know that exudes that quality? What impact does it have on them and people around them?
What does gravitas mean in a negotiating
Consider including a person with obvious gravitas in negotiating situations where an authoritative manner or strong leadership skills are required. Be in the moment and consider your selection of the right people for the right progressive negotiation situations.
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