21st Century Secrets of Leadership Gravitas
Editor’s Note: This post is part of the “Leadership Presence” series, a weeklong effort co-hosted by Switch & Shift and the good people at CEO.com. Keep track of the series here and check our daily e-mail newsletter for all posts. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.
You know if you are in the presence of someone with gravitas because they hold everyone’s attention instantly and hypnotically, even if you don’t always know why. There are now two rooms in the 21st century. How does a leader own the room when the room is virtual and the audience can be global?
Let’s contrast two different yet related scenarios. First, the CEO – a Mark Zuckerburg or a Tim Cook – who presents an eagerly awaited new product on stage at a launch event attended by hundreds of employees, partners, suppliers and industry commentators. The place erupts and the CEO’s every word is gleefully met with whooping and air punching.
Second, the entry-level graduate who struggles at networking meetings because of his belief that people are not taking him seriously enough due to his tender years and boyish looks. He wants to develop his gravitas, a common enough situation for someone starting out in a new job and career.
There are now two rooms in the 21st century. How does a leader own the room when the room is virtual and the audience can be global?
The ingredients and the mix for success and failure are similar in both cases. Our CEO is relaxed, confident and energized. The body language is seamlessly in tune with the message and responsive to the mood of the audience. Some of this may be about pre-conceptions of positional power and wealth. Most of it is about alignment between establishing credibility online well before entering the room, knowingly being yourself, understanding the audience and performing ‘in the zone’ when face-to-face.
Being a leader is about other people and not about yourself. Effective leaders are empathic listeners who internalize and can then articulate the pain, challenge or hunger of their people, customers and users. Our graduate is aware of what he doesn’t know how to do well yet. His focus is on his own performance rather than his audience. It makes him over-anxious and unnatural at networking events. How can he adapt to be more effective?
Self-awareness is the starting point. When am I at my confident best? What attracts people to me? What personal powers do I have at my fingertips (like charisma or quiet authority, creativity and critical thinking)? Delivering and promoting successes build credibility. So does trust, which is why it can take many networking dates to seal a professional marriage.
It is about alignment between establishing credibility online well before entering the room, knowingly being yourself, understanding the audience and performing ‘in the zone’ when face-to-face.
It is no surprise that gravitas is sought after given its origins as one of the virtues in Roman times alongside piety and dignity. The Romans saw a virtue as a quality of moral good for promoting collective and individual greatness. Gravitas translates from Latin as weight and seriousness. It is often linked to substance or depth of personality. In a recent Forbes article, Karl Moore describes it as “the quality of self-assurance and effectiveness that permits a performer to achieve a rapport with the audience.”
Establishing leadership gravitas or presence today differs from the Industrial Age because changes in technology mean we can connect with vast numbers of people in an instant. From one-to-one to one-to-many, we all have the potential to establish our credibility and influence in our own inimitable way in an array of formats.
Take a strategic as well as tactical approach to strengthening your presence. That means knowing what digital media and formats suit your message, skills and personality at its best. The tools already exist whether visual (YouTube, TED talks, Google hangouts, Skype), auditory (podcasts, radio blogs, interviews, panels) or the written word (social media, blogging, online articles).
From one-to-one to one-to-many, we all have the potential to establish our credibility and influence in our own inimitable way in an array of formats.
Authors, Mark Babbitt and Ted Coiné, quote Jim Claussen who coined the term “blue unicorn” to describe the rarity of truly social leaders. Pressure is building on CEOs to be more social to improve brand awareness, reputation, transparency and influence. Online builds relationships and credibility from one to many, offline cements the relationship from one to a few. A secret of leadership gravitas in the 21st century is to align and integrate both your offline and online presence.
Developing a personal brand online helps to build leadership gravitas when you meet in person. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Make that recollection of someone who has something substantive and credible to say. Awe is the emotion that people seek the most from videos online. Be awesome.
What one step will you take today to identify, develop or strengthen your integrated leadership presence online and offline?
Online builds relationships and credibility from one to many, offline cements the relationship from one to a few.
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