Gravitas is about using your personal power in service to others and giving up the pleasure of asserting your power with a sharp voice tone.
J.S. contacted me and shared that he is strong technically, reports to the highest leaders in his company and gets great feedback that his expertise is valuable. He has also been told that he needs to work on developing more gravitas. It turns out that his power sometimes overpowers others, offending people when he does not mean to do so. He just wants to express all he knows. J.S. said, “I just can’t hold back my energy when I have an important point to make!” He says he can’t help it if others are offended by his tone of voice.
The frustration for J.S. and other high-powered professionals like him is that they hit a perplexing glass ceiling where they aren’t being promoted to senior levels. Even though they have the intelligence, the business solutions and the expertise to advance, they are often passed over for promotions. The problem is not one of lack of excellence, but lack of gravitas.
The Missing Quality and Skills to be Developed
What I believe is missing for some super powerful people is the ability to translate their power into service for the whole organization. That is gravitas. Many who are super powerful can’t hold themselves back from instantaneous expression. They think they just have to say it the way it is. That really turns others off because it sounds and feels sharp.
If you are one of the energetically super powerful, you may need to learn how to contain your powerful energy when you perceive a solution, mull it over in your mind and express it in a way that will be in service to the whole group. You must become more thoughtful and wise when expressing yourself. Without the middle part of the communication process where you consider what to say and how to say it carefully, others can’t trust you. They may admire your power and they certainly will fear you, but they can’t trust you because they don’t feel safe with you. Trust only happens when others know that you are considering their feelings and that your power is being used for the good of everyone.
Since I am sometimes one of these people who throw my communications at others too sharply, I have been exploring within my own consciousness how to develop gravitas. As one who teaches what I am here to learn, I have also been teaching groups on how to integrate the elements of gravitas into an already powerful style that will help leaders show up with gravitas. You may have read in one of my other posts or gravitas articles that gravitas is a rare leadership quality of power that comes from inner authority. People who exude gravitas take their time to consider things deeply and speak from the wisest place inside themselves for the good of the whole.
What to Give Up
In order to develop gravitas, you must sacrifice two qualities that are dearly held. The first thing to give up is the pleasure of speaking sharply. Sharpness in a leader makes him or her less likely to be promoted because it triggers such negative reactions in others. The tone of voice actually hurts others who are sensitive. The second thing to sacrifice is the tendency to think and talk fast. You must slow down your speech and actions to consider thoughtfully how they will land with listeners. Slowing down gives you time to think and listeners time to process your meaning.
If you are like J.S., do a truthful self-assessment to articulate the qualities that you must sacrifice in order to begin to show up with gravitas. If you’d like some coaching to cultivate gravitas as a part of your leadership style, here is a gravitas group program I offer in Houston. Individual coaching by phone or Skype is also an option for working with me on cultivating gravitas in your leadership style.