The Oxford Dictionary defines gravitas [mass noun] as:
Dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner: “a post for which he has the expertise and the gravitas.”

The end of the fiscal year means that senior executives are increasingly in the spotlight having to communicate with impact through formal presentations, board room meetings, road shows, networking events, internally to employees and externally to clients and potential clients. They have to behave like swans gliding across the water whilst paddling ferociously underneath.

Each key audience demands different things from their leader. Each has their own motivations, their own desires and their own visions of success, yet they all desire to be led. As a leader you may be technically excellent in what you do (which could be why you’ve got to where you’ve got). However, putting on a different face to each of these differing audiences, at a time of heightened focus on you as a leader, is tough. In my last blog I talked about the significance of your practical communication style in being compelling.

The first impression counts – 55% of a first impression is based on your physicality, 38% is based on your voice and only 7% on the words you say. From the moment you step into the office until the moment you leave a networking event in the evening, you are always sending a message about your leadership gravitas. All your key audiences will be watching and making judgements about this gravitas subconsciously and consciously; through the way in which you walk and talk during every day activities such as walking to the water machine and walking to and from meetings, to the way in which you conduct a formal business meeting. The more gravitas you possess the more secure they will be in your leadership authority and the more they will be motivated, bought in, loyal and hard working.

Can Gravitas be developed?

Yes, very easily! Through your attitude, physicality and vocal delivery.

Attitude:

Gravitas should not be confused with arrogance. Some of the most impressive gravitas emulates from some of the most humble yet authentic leaders I know. An attitude of gravitas cannot be “put on”. Rather it has to be generated from the inside out, so that real emotional feelings of belief connect what is going on inside the leader to the outside environment. Moving up the career ladder from manager to leader involves a shift of attitude that some find hard to achieve. Managerial thinking habits of a “Yes, sir” mentality need to be changed to a “Please can you…” mentality.
Tip:
Create bespoke short strap-lines that help you believe that you are a leader. For example, many leaders have a fear of being found out as not credible, which in turn affects their communication performance in a board room meeting. If that is you, create a phrase that you can repeat to yourself at work in order to create a new mode of being, such as, “I am credible and my audiences will wait for me to speak” (depending on your bespoke negative inner thinking habits that reduce your gravitas). As you repeat this to yourself allow yourself to generate an internal emotional response. As you walk to your next meeting repeat the phrase and let your posture and walking rhythm mirror those internal emotions. You are now “walking the talk with enhanced gravitas!”

Physicality:

Any dancer will tell you that the floor is their friend. Using correct weight placement techniques whilst walking, standing and sitting greatly enhances your gravitas and are instantly learnable. Gestures can grab attention when needed and dictate hierarchical status when required. Breathing can be lowered and rhythm adjusted to achieve the desired effect on your audience.
Tip:
Stand straight, feet hips width apart and rock up onto your tip toes swiftly twenty times, imagining that you are pushing all your weight onto the floor whilst rocking up. When you rock down each time make sure the movement ends with your feet flat on the ground (not back on your heals). Allow gravity to stabilise and carry your weight. Enjoy the feeling of connection between your feet and the floor. Enjoy breathing more heavily as your get out of puff. Recognise your mental alertness. Enjoy energising your physicality and internal rhythm. Carry this “performance” energy into your day.

Vocal delivery:

The lower your vocal tone the more status you will naturally command. Men are at an advantage to women in this regard, but we can all learn to encourage the natural low harmonics of our vocal tones to shine in order to gain more authority.
Tip:
Humming is a great way of warming up your voice before communicating a message. Making sure that you are standing/sitting up straight, close your lips lightly and hum so that you are encouraging your lips to tickle with the vibrations of the sound. The more they vibrate the better! Keep breathing and keep humming. Move the sound vibrations to your mouth area, lips closed and chew the sound around your mouth, teeth and tongue so that all the areas are buzzing with your sound vibrations. Now put your hand on your chest and repeat the exercise of humming, aiming to increase the feeling of vibration in your chest area. Allow big breaths to carry the sound through your chest rather than push the sound down from your vocal cords. Now, hum up and down a scale (like a siren) keeping the vibrations in the chest as much as you possibly can. The more you do this exercise, the more you will develop a natural and authentic authoritative tone of voice.

Gravitas can be developed very easily. Start this journey by self monitoring and self managing in these three key areas: attitude, physicality and vocal delivery. Warming up in these ways before a big communication event (be it to one or one thousand people) will greatly increase your gravitas. Enjoy!

For more information about Marcus-Wolf’s benefit, please contact Nicolette Wolf for a confidential exploratory conversation: +44 (0) 7961 373 774 or email Nicolette@marcus-wolf.com