What is Executive Gravitas & How Can You Build It?

Gravitas is a part of executive presence which has three components according to the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) – “Gravitas, Communication, and Appearance”. Gravitas is how you act, communication is how you speak and Appearance is how you look.

Gravitas can be a little tricky to comprehend. It is not a single thing. It is the combined effect of a number of variables that together sends the message that you are some kind of a heavyweight in your industry organization. People with gravitas command immediate attention and attraction as someone worthy of being heard or followed, according to CTI (2013).

The Elements of Gravitas

There are six elements of Gravitas as identified by CTI.

Grace, Confidence, and Poise:

When you believe in yourself under the most trying and challenging conditions, others also believe you. You remain undaunted under stressing conditions.


You are decisive with courage and confidence. You are responsible and take responsibility for the decisions you take.

High Emotional Intelligence

Your emotional intelligence is high. You demonstrate empathy for others. You are accountable for the actions of those under you even in stressful and tough times.

High Moral Integrity

You live by values and standards even when they are not popular. You do not hesitate in speaking up your mind and what you believe in.

High Reputation

You are a positive role model in your organization having a great leadership brand.


You are a visionary who inspires optimism in others. You present a relevant and realistic picture of the change you want to see.

Career experts all over the world agree that building gravitas can be an important part of your journey towards the attainment of the position of corporate leadership. According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Cracking the Code: Executive Presence and Multicultural Professionals and founder of the Center for Talent Innovation, gravitas is by far the most important core characteristics associated with the executive presence in the opinion of nearly 70% senior managers, who were surveyed for her book. This is the number one factor that generates credibility as the workplace leader and inspires trust and confidence, according to her.

How You Can Build Gravitas

While it is easy to misunderstand the core skills of gravitas, personal branding consultants are pretty sure what gravitas is not. It is certainly not over-confidence as it is easy to slip into this zone when the line demarcating confidence from overconfidence may be thin. It is important to be confident but even more important not to be arrogant. Arrogance is rooted somewhere in inadequacy. Gravitas has absolutely no relationship with self-importance. These are some of the things that only your personal branding consultant can tell you. They will work with you systematically to develop you into a leader with integrity and decisiveness. They will train you to conduct properly during the times you are left out or nervous so that you refrain from slipping into the overconfidence mode.

Here are some of the ways for you to enhance your gravitas:

1. Remain Poised and Value Your Efforts

When you value what you do as worthwhile, you have the gravitas. You can then remain calm and poised even under challenging circumstances. You won’t need to prove it. You will not compete to be the smartest person in the room nor try to dominate. It is natural to lose your poise when awed or intimated by the achievements or accomplishments of others. When you don’t give in to these psychological fears you will refrain from undervaluing or marginalizing yourself, often in ways that are subtle yet noticeable.

2. Know When to Speak and When to be Silent

The key to gravitas is in judging when you need to assert and when to be silent. Even on occasions when you need to assert, you need to keep your ideas clear, simple, crisp and relevant to the ongoing discussion. Avoid repeating others’ ideas. There are times when your silence speaks volumes. As an active listener, your silence is eloquent. It is an opportunity to make the right connection with the speaker and let them know how much you care for them. Short questions like ‘what’ and ‘how’ rather than ‘why’ helps you and your audience grounded to the present or future instead of the past.

3. Be An Effective Communicator

You tend to lose the interest of your listener with irritating verbal mannerisms like repetitive filler words such as ‘you know’, ‘um’, ‘like’, ‘what I mean’, ‘in my opinion’, ‘at the end of the day’, and so on. There are ticks or nervous habits that you may not be even aware of as they may be hidden in your blind spot.

4. Avoid Arrogance and Be Kind and Confident

All personal branding trainers are of the nearly unanimous opinion that arrogance can never go with the gravitas. Your arrogance is perceived as your insecurity and overbearing nature and that is probably also true. Perhaps, you’re trying too hard. With your kind and compassionate nature, you likely win the admiration of even your adversaries. When you treat others with respect, you get respect in return.

5. Body Language Matters

Yes, it does. Because non-verbal communication has a large share of nearly 80%. Yet, most often, we tend to forget or underplay this fact. People are almost universally gifted at deciphering body language. They can consciously or unconsciously read your mental state and attitude in the way you sit or lean, the way you keep your hands, the way you enter and exit out of the room and so on.


Gravitas or executive presence is the first thing you want to focus on in your career advancement. This is the first thing your personal brand consultant will ask you to focus on because you get noticed for your gravitas and make an impact on your seniors and colleagues.

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