Gravitas as a concept has an air of power and mystery about it but gravitas is something that can help managers and executives become more respected leaders. The dictionary meaning of gravitas is simply ‘seriousness’ and when we speak of ‘executive gravitas,’ we picture someone who is steady, grounded, confident, and at ease with themselves and their role.
A definition of gravitas may be a bit elusive, however there are clear actions you can take to develop a personal leadership style that will bring you greater respect as a leader.
Here are 8 Tactics To Give You Gravitas
- When an employee brings a problem or concern: Thank them sincerely for bringing it up – even if it’s a complaint about your personal brainchild. If appropriate, ask them for an idea to solve this, any idea – it doesn’t have to be a good one! I practiced this as a manager and I found that when I did this consistently, my team started bringing better solutions with their complaints. Some people on my team even developed into confidently bringing suggested improvements instead of complaints. Do you see the power in that shift?
- When giving or explaining a task to an employee, always say what is important about the task. Is the completion of this task critical for another team to do their part? Is this task serving your customers? Increasing revenue? Protecting client data? Place the task in a greater context so that the employee has a sense of purpose and feels that their work has value. They will complete the work better and derive greater personal fulfillment from doing it.
- When answering a question in email, write a complete sentence to ensure clarity: “Yes, please run the revenue report for the entire last month showing sales by day” rather than leaving things open to misunderstanding with a simple “Yes.”
- Say what you see. Often when we see something is amiss, we get uncomfortable – usually because there’s a conversation happening in our heads that somehow makes this situation mean something about us. To sidestep your monkey mind thoughts, just say what you see without trying to analyze it. For example, to one of your recently tardy direct reports: “I see you’ve been late every day this week, is there something going on that I can support you with?”
- When you don’t understand say “It’s not yet clear to me.” Try to bring clarity to what you are hearing by helping the person out: “Am I understanding this right…” then repeat back as best you can what you think is being said. Let them correct or elaborate from there. Or ask for specific details by starting with, “So I can be clear,…”
- Delete entirely the following words from your speech and written communication: Just, I feel, I think, I believe, Like. If you wouldn’t say the sentence without saying “I think” or “I feel” first, then reword the sentence into something you would say without using any of those phrases. For example, if you are asking for input and not making a declarative statement, then “I think the data indicates that 18 to 35 year-olds are not using our product as much” becomes “The data indicates that 18 to 35 year-olds are not using our product as much. Are you seeing this as well?” I think / I feel / I believe are phrases we often use to cushion our communication. We might intend to appear open to feedback but the effect is to make us appear uncertain and lacking in confidence. The fact is that everything said by anyone at any time is only their opinion and open to correction or disagreement by others. So if you intend to elicit feedback from others, state that clearly and leave the soft-pedaling fillers like “I believe” out. Everyone will thank you for it.
- If you didn’t do something you said you would do, say so. This gets easier with practice! And you will be amazed at how empowering this is. “I said I would send this to you last week, I did not. I will send it to you by end of this week.” No stories, no explanations needed. The other person already knows you didn’t do what you said you would but by you stating this fact, you have brought a sense of closure to the energy gap left and cleared the air for everyone involved. If this caused a hardship or inconvenience for another person, you can add an apology (see number 8).
- To apologize, say “Apologies” don’t say “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry is only for major infractions, expressing condolences or to dear friends. Not getting a report to a coworker on time? Saying “I’m sorry” can come across as some kind of statement about you as a person rather than your state of regret. A simple “Apologies for the inconvenience this may have caused you” conveys adequate regret and that you realize there may have been consequences. If appropriate, follow up with what you willing to do next – e.g., deliver the report by Wednesday.