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The importance of gravitas at all levels of your career

Published on Saturday, 28 May 2016

One of the highest accolades I give to job candidates of all levels when making an introduction to a client is: “When he or she speaks up, people sit up and take notice.”

Hirers know that to operate effectively, the people they recruit must be viewed by the most senior stakeholders in the business as influential and credible. This vital “voice” at the table is what we call “gravitas” or “executive presence”.

Executive presence is often misperceived as being overly confident, perhaps even arrogant. True gravitas is different; it is far more subtle and, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be an extrovert to develop it.

There are a few simple things you can practise that will have an immediate impact on your gravitas. These are useful, both if you are satisfied in your current role or if you are actively interviewing for a new one.

Be poised and assured in the value of your contribution. It’s perfectly natural to be nervous or intimidated in a room full of top leaders. Don’t give into this fear – remain calm and assured in the importance of what you have to say.

Listen, and use your judgement when it comes to making assertions and asking questions. Remain silent when appropriate. Attentive silence is the same as active listening, and listening is the core ingredient to being able to identify with other perspectives and add value by expressing your viewpoint.

Be confident without being arrogant. Arrogance and gravitas cannot coexist.

Be keenly aware of your body language. At least 80 per cent of your communication is non-verbal. Being aware of your own body language therefore plays a crucial role in establishing strong executive presence.

When done well, gravitas will enable you to add your unique value to important conversations, both in your current role and at the interview stage. Your impact at the most senior levels of business will only increase.

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Gaining gravitas.

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