Authentic Gravitas As Part Of Leadership


Authentic Gravitas is about 'who stands out and why'. It is another way of looking at leadership with its 10 components of trust, presence, influential, valued, authentic, integrity, courageous, humility, passionate and self-leadership.

Components of Authentic Gravitas

1. Trusted, ie based on the quality of their contribution over time results in their being trusted; involves a willingness to be vulnerable to somebody else; people with gravitas create environments in which others are comfortable being open, vulnerable and courageous themselves; involves the way you interact with others, including seeking feedback; usually trusted people are respected but it does not necessarily follow that respected people are trusted, eg you might respect somebody for their knowledge but not necessarily trust them; it is more than being open and proactive; there are 2 parts to trust, ie

- affective trust (the confidence an individual places in others based on their empathy or concern)

- cognitive trust (the confidence someone places in another based on their competence and reliability)

Trust helps to create a culture of collaboration and, in turn, improves creativity.

Establishing and nurturing trust depends on often intangible facts:

- your own propensity to trust

- your emotions

- your perception of another's trustworthiness (this is influenced by assessment of the other's interests, social roles, relationship history, social norms, third-party reports, etc)

"...people naturally assess others' trustworthiness before they engage in trusting acts..."

Kellogg School of Management as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

- your risk profile

- your willingness to be vulnerable (expose your flaws)

Building trust can help manage conflict

2. Has a Presence, ie people take notice of you, eg have everyone's attention when speaking

"...people who are listening to, taken seriously, considered important regardless of their hierarchical position; their opinions matter, their ideas have weight..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

This is usually linked with humility and curiosity.

3. Influential, ie your word carries weight and your ideas are taken seriously; bring energy and resilience; 'lead the room', ie

"...add value in such a way that they are able to powerfully shape or direct conversation decisions for a collective positive outcome, regardless of their title or position......People are attracted to others who they can see and appreciate their unique strengths - not as baseless cases of flattery, but grounded in observation, experience, reflection, and exploration..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

4. Valued, ie with their contribution being valued, irrespective of their position; it is more than just the style or manner of a person, like non-verbal behaviour (body language, tone of voice, etc); it is more closely related to one consistent quality, ie the value they add, and the process by which they do so; value is defined as

"...the importance, worth, or usefulness of something; principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life..."

Brosh & Sanders as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

If you feel not valued, you will experience this psychologically as a threat and move away. However, if you feel valued, psychologically and practically, you gravitate towards others

5. Authentic, ie involves consciously understanding one's real-self (such as how you really think, feel and believe) and acting in a way that reflects that; need clarity about your values, habits and beliefs plus being transparent with them; being yourself, not trying to be someone else; regularly use humour to bring lightheartedness to any situation; are willing to be vulnerable; it is one of the strongest predictors of well-being; does not mean you are fixed in your ways; aim to minimise the gap between your intentions (value and beliefs), actions and impact; despite one's personality, distinct characteristics and patterns of thinking, feeling, interacting and behaving being relatively stable over time, they can be modified without challenging your authenticity, ie find a new 'natural'; authenticity breeds confidence, ie inner strength (know who you are and what matters to you) and this comes from discipline, practice, self-reflection and humility. Even though you have a natural style, there are times when you will need to modify this to suit your audience, ie 

 "...Being authentic is not about being rigid with your natural style, but about being true to your intentions......often means adapting our natural style to the person with whom we are interacting. This benefits ourselves (by aligning our action with our intention), others (by creating conditions for them to make their best contribution) and the situation at hand (by adding significant value)......Adding real value lies in being flexible and how we handle others..."  

Rebecca Newton, 2019 

This involves being flexible and versatile to increase your effectiveness. This versatility, ie to move freely between different styles, is called social intelligence, ie the capacity to understand the situation so that intentionally select appropriate responses and vary your behaviour in the face of changing conditions. This means developing an understanding of your impact on others so that your intention and actual impact are aligned. Despite our unique combination of preferences, biases, habits and feelings, etc being relatively stable over time, we can change our behaviours. There are 3 key ways of doing this, ie pace, idea generation and critique

    i) pace (this involves clarity, brevity and haste. For example, some people have a preference for moving quickly on implementation and in conversation, ie they appear assertive, direct and goal oriented with a strong preference for clear and concise interaction. To handle them,  don't talk too much; instead, be brief and to the point, ie have the facts and figures ready to support the preferred options. It is of interest to note 

" decision-makers require more, not less formation and develop more, not fewer alternatives. The key was to have as much information in real time as possible and to identify as many alternatives as possible......Fast teams actively deal with conflict, whereas teams that make slower decisions tended to delay until external events force them into action..." 

Kathleen Eisenhardt as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

Having many options allows decision-makers to quickly shift, ie provide a fallback position.)

    ii) idea generation (involves brainstorming - more detail see elsewhere in the Knowledge Base)

    iii) critique (involves providing feedback (both positive and negative); it should be welcomed, encouraging and challenging so that it is adding value and accepted by the receivers, eg well worded, constructive, challenging input; as people differ in how they offer, and prefer to receive, feedback, you need to adapt your presentation accordingly, eg if people are optimistic and big picture orientated, you need to respond with energy and start with the positives rather than the negatives; otherwise they will feel deflated when receiving immediate criticism; need to be careful of the attitude of 'shoot the messenger', eg personal criticism that can negatively impact self-identity, rather than evaluate the content, using critical thinking after appreciating and valuing others' contributions. 

"...Offering a critique is one of the key areas will be need to adapt to others' preferences to build authentic gravitas.....The goal is not to offer false confidence in the work, but rather to recognise the effort made by the contributor to highlight where real value is added..."     

Rebecca Newton, 2019)  

NB Need to realise and take into account that people experience value in different ways. Therefore, you need to master adapting your style to the situation while staying true to yourself, ie you are not rigid in your behaviour and act in line with your values and intent for impact. If you are finding your interaction tricky, you need to consider

    i) identify your own preferences for interacting including pace, how you like to come up with new ideas, how you prefer to give and receive critical feedback

    ii) identify people who would react differently from you around pace, your ideas and preference to give and receive critical feedback; describe how you think they would prefer to work and interact

    iii) remember how you have adapt your style to both successfully and unsuccessfully work with different people in the past, ie what worked, what needs improving, what would you do differently next time, etc

    iv) remember particular times when you found it difficult to work with certain people and how you might have handled it differently, ie consider what their preferences were for how they work and interact.

    v) be prepared to ask these people how they would prefer to work and interact so that you can build a good working relationship

    vi) be prepared to experiment with new ways of working and interacting with these people and reflect on how effective these new ways are.

Influencing your peers

Peers are people with the same level of specialist knowledge, occupy similar levels or positions in the organisation, have similar background and experience. Influencing them can be very difficult as there is a natural competitiveness for resources and promotion. This can be referred to as the lateral process. Research has suggested 3 ways to handle, ie target assessment, executive preparation and influence tactics

    i) target assessment (evaluate the person who you want to influence, ie what are their resources, goals, personality, and preferences for interacting?; identify who has been successful in influencing them in the past and understand why; this tends to drive both preparation and influence tactic choice

"...Success in influencing comes not only from being prepared, being versatile and drawing on a variety of techniques but also from our preparation for these encounters and, in particular, engaging in target assessment..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

    ii) executive preparation (amount of time and effort put into effectively developing and delivering communications to your peers)

    iii) influence tactics (refers to matching the right tactic(s) for the situation and person, eg rational persuasion (using a logical argument), inspirational appeals (appeals to values and ideals) and exchange (reciprocity) 

(for more details, see motivation and persuasion in other parts of the Knowledge Base)

Don't confuse influence with manipulation; the latter is bout being a self-serving, while the former is focused on achieving collective goals with integrity; some influencing techniques include the following: rational persuasion, legitimising tactics, personal appeals, apprising, favours and exchange, inspirational appeals (emotions, moods, values, etc), ingratiation, consulting, etc

        a) rational persuasion, ie using logical arguments and factual evidence, eg analytical approach with the data speaking for itself; it is objective rather than subjective; ignores the importance of relational persuasiveness, like your trustworthiness, enhancing the positive impact of rationality, ie is just as important to build strong personal relationships as to come up with the right information; need to understand the context of the situation with the needs and preferences of the audience

        b) legitimising, ie using an authoritative source to influence others; this can be linked with hierarchical/positional power but needs to be carefully deployed in order to appear in a positive light; its impact depends upon the relationship between the authority and the audience; is not about who is in a position of authority but who, or what, the people you're working with regard as an apt source of authority

        c) favours and exchange, ie relying on the inputs of others; there is vulnerability when asking for help; shows trust in relational proximity, ie being close enough to ask; belief in the other person's ability to have a positive impact; involves 'give and take' that creates an equilibrium in a relationship; exchange is more effective when linked with a strong relationship, like the trustworthiness of a person suggesting the exchange

        d) apprising, ie it's you doing a favour for somebody else that is linked to what is important to them

NB Relation strength builds influencing effectiveness, even in the seemingly simplest forms

         e) inspirational appeals (emotions are important in decision-making, thinking, interactions, etc; there are positive and negative emotional responses; emotions shape your persuasiveness; your mood can impact your acceptability, ie if you are in a good mood you're more likely to be receptive than if you are sad or unhappy, in the latter you are more likely to scrutinise; mood also impacts your ability to process information; best to wait until the audience is in a good mood before tackling challenging issues; you can influences others moods like using humour, energising through participation, the way you frame the challenge, etc. Another part of this involves values; importance of shared values

"...high level of congruence between personal values and organisational values, and high levels of clarity of organisational values were both significantly related to high commitment, satisfaction, motivation, and ethics, as well as lowered job anxiety and less work stress. This was regardless of age, gender, and function area..."

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

You need to encourage diversity of thought, experience, expertise, backgrounds, etc

"...knowing that your core principles are aligned is perhaps the most powerful foundation for influencing..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019)

        f) ingratiation (instilling confidence in others by using genuine praise to express appreciation of someone's ability to perform a challenging task or request; it is not flattery which can be associated with insincerity; you can be more confident in their ability that they are themselves; informing someone what you like, respect, appreciate, etc about them can help improve your relationship with them.)

        g) consulting (participation and buy-in, ie ownership of what you create; co-create; social consistency, ie want to work with like-minded people; participation will increase buy-in especially if it satisfies wants and needs; part of asking for people's contribution is then acting on their inputs, ie give people's ideas and suggestions genuine consideration (including feedback) and appropriate implementation.   

NB The type of decision making required will impact techniques selection. For example, for avisioning process, inspirational appeal were the most affective; for more concrete decisions about current issues, rational persuasion and consultation were more affective 

Never underestimate the importance of the informal meetings, encounters and conversations (more details elsewhere in the Knowledge Base) 

Some suggestions to improve relationships, especially with peers

- recognise your own uncertainty about others' intentions

- acknowledge differences of opinion

- understand the gap between intention and impact of both your own situation and others

- choose courageous conversations rather than silent competition

- allow yourself to be vulnerable, ie be willing to take personal risk, willing to be challenged and challenge, etc

- use your interpersonal skills

- in most cases there is no one right answer

- look forward to 'wins-wins' rather than 'win-lose' or 'lose-lose' outcomes 

6. Integrity requires consistency between words and action(s); alignment between intention and impact; keeping promises, ie being a person of your word; recognise differences that can arise between your intent and your impact; this is linked with self-regulation (coherence between your personality, your behaviour and your professional goals)


"...people with high levels of gravitas don't always act in the same way - rather, they were reported to have different approaches in how they influenced different people across various situations......involves successfully influencing others in line with your values and intentions for impact, in order to make a noteworthy contribution to a people have influenced beyond authority - not relying on hierarchical power to shape the thinking, feelings and actions of others..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

7. Courageous, ie this involves 3 elements:

    i) intentional action, ie it involves deliberate consideration and voluntary willingness to act

    ii) worthy goal(s) with focus on positive, important outcome(s), ie looking to make a significant, positive impact

    iii) perceived risks, such as the risk of not being successful; they could create a level of fear, nervousness, anxiety, etc.

Courage is about daring to take risks, eg trying new approaches to old problems, starting new and unknown projects, expanding your knowledge base into new disciplines, growing your expertise, engaging in difficult conversations, trying new behaviours, etc;    

Courage can be learnt by practising courage, ie repetitive acts result in forming habits; need to be performing courageous acts to have courage; it can only be obtained by doing it; research has shown that courage and integrity are the 2 most important predictors of senior executive performance.   

8. Humility, ie not 'full of self-importance'; don't have an inflated ego (do not demonstrate a belief that you are more important, or have a higher worth, than other people); do not become defensive if feedback is negative.

9. Passionate, ie being excited about something that is fulfilling (it is something you care about personally; it brings out your natural energy; linked with this is knowing your strengths, ie what you are good at; your strengths are different from skills, as strengths are things that actually energise you and you enjoy doing them, irrespective of your skill level; generally people like working with their strengths and, as a result, perform better and embody positive organisational behaviours like collaboration; being proactive, like taking opportunities to utilise and improve your strengths; best to focus on your strengths before weaknesses; best way to compensate for your weaknesses is by working with somebody with complementary strengths and weaknesses; too much focus on strengths can result in their becoming an obsession, eg a person's strengths could be focusing on detail, which can become micromanaging)  

10. Self-leadership, ie the influence you use to control your own behaviour and thoughts, including behavioural and cognitive strategies intended to increase your personal effectiveness and performance; the idea of effectively leading others is associated with first effectively leading yourself; stand out from the crowd; be self-motivated with a mindset that changes from 'I don't want to' to 'I choose to stretch myself and be challenged' etc; you have to focus on your own development so that you can positively impact others; your personal power and influence transcends hierarchy; need to focus less on outputs, ie how you lead, influence, produce, manage, etc and more on inputs, ie nurturing your own abilities, eg attending training courses.


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