Two words are bandied around a lot when you get to middle management and people around you are thinking about you taking the next step up, looking at you with appraising eyes and wondering if you’ve got ‘what it takes’.
I applied for a job years ago at a large professional services firm and quite clearly remember the interview process. Not least because there were about six rounds of interviews and at each one a waiter all dolled up in black and white would come into the meeting room and ask me what coffee I wanted. Weird. Don’t get me wrong, good, but weird. If you can afford to make café style coffees for all of your interviewees, shouldn’t you really be donating more money to charity or something? But anyway, I digress.
The word gravitas was brought up somewhere around interview three. “We need someone with gravitas” they said. I nodded sagely, and inside thought “what on earth is that?” Needless to say there was some hectic Googling once I left the interview.
So what exactly are these two desirable leadership qualities, and why do they help you get ahead?
Not something that is underfoot, or unfortunately in your mouth while you try to eat lunch at the beach, this grit is basically staying power. Grit means you can come back to your job day-in and day-out and do the best job you can, consistently. It doesn’t mean you are a machine, we all have days that are more productive than others, but it does mean that you can consistently deliver good results.
Grit is what gets you up in the morning determined to go for that run, even if it is freezing cold and you would much rather be in bed. Why is it important for leaders? Because it means you can keep on leading by example and stay motivated when the going gets tough, and keep inspiring your teams to do the same.
So how do you get grit? Firstly you have to believe in and understand what you are working for. Are your values aligned with those of the company? Do you feel passionate about your work? If these things are in place then grit comes naturally.
Make sure that grit doesn’t trip you up though – if you keep on keeping on at a job you don’t feel passionate about, or you run that extra two miles and bugger your knee up, that’s not grit, that’s stupidity.
Good old gravitas. Yes, don’t feel embarrassed to check the dictionary definition. Basically it means that you have enough presence of being for people to take you seriously. When you talk, people listen. Your persona is compelling enough for people to think you must actually know what you are talking about. Yep, it’s good to have.
This one is more of a learned behaviour. Children, for example, generally don’t have gravitas. They don’t take themselves seriously, for them it is all about having a good time. Gravitas means you have the respect of your peers because you behave in a way that shows you mean business. You don’t have to be miserable, you just measure your behaviour and modify it the way the situation requires.
When presenting, for example, gravitas means that the crowd listens and believes what you are telling them.
So how do you get gravitas, or hone your presence?
- Phone a friend. Ask them about your presence and how they think you could modify your behaviour if necessary.
- Look at your language, both body and verbal. The way you carry yourself and the way you talk change people’s perceptions dramatically. If you think you need professional help in this area you should consider a course like toastmasters.
- Make sure you dress to impress and so that you feel confident. There’s nothing like an ill-fitting outfit to make you uncomfortable, and it shows.
- Be authoritative but not bossy, and confident rather than arrogant. Gravitas is not being the biggest bully or loudest voice in the room.
To get grit and gravitas:
- believe in yourself
- believe in your work
- look at your body language
- modify your speech and behaviour as required
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