If you’re angling for the corner office, you need to have gravitas.
Having gravitas — a serious manner that commands respect — communicates that you have what it takes, says economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett. “You need to be seen as someone who knows their stuff cold and can go three to four questions deep in the their domain.”
Hewlett came to this finding as part of researching her new book “Executive Presence.” She and her team at the Center for Talent Innovation surveyed 4,000 American professionals looking for the signals people need to send in order to be tapped for a leadership opportunity.
But it’s not all about your accomplishments.
“(Gravitas) is about what you signal, the impressions you give,” Hewlett says. “It’s not about performance. It’s about when you’re given the chance at the next opportunity, and of course that’s a big part of whether you’ll succeed or not.”
To that end, projecting gravitas to your boss, colleagues, and clients is a matter of “embodying your intellectual horsepower,” she says.
Of course, in a workplace setting, not everybody is going to be directly familiar with your work beyond your boss and your most immediate colleagues. The key, Hewlett says, is to project capability to the far reaches of the organisation, even if people don’t necessarily know what it is you’re doing.
To send those signals, do the following:
1. Look polished. If you look unkempt, you don’t look capable.
2. Know what you’re going to say before you say it. If you don’t speak with clarity, people simply won’t listen to you.
3. Show some cultural fluency. Adapt your speaking style to your environment, whether Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or points in between.
For the full list of suggestions for showing you have gravitas, go here.
“You don’t get a shot at showing your actual skills unless you’re given an opportunity,” Hewlett says. “It’s incredibly linked to your career journey.”
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