Six Myths About Authentic Gravitas

1. Gravitas is a Gift, ie you are born with gravitas (myth). This is dangerously incorrect and self-defeating as it is not something predetermined; you can learn and develop it; it takes courage and discipline.

2. Confidence is essential for gravitas (myth).

"'s courage that drive gravitas, not confidence. Confidence may develop, particularly in response to successfully working with courage......It takes courage and discipline..." 

Rebecca Newton, 2019It is a mindset initially requiring more courage and discipline than confidence, especially when you are moving outside your zone of comfort, eg when stretching yourself mentally, that can perpetuate a negative cycle and make you feel uncomfortable. You are challenging yourself and increasing your expertise, regardless of whether you feel confident.

Confidence is not an essential prerequisite for gravitas. It can be about self-efficacy, ie"...The expectation that we can perform competently across a broad range of challenging situations that required effort and can be developed......leader self-efficacy involves the confidence of successfully motivate others..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

Confidence may be a positive outcome rather than a necessary input.

Be aware of this self-fulfilling prophecy of 'needing more confidence', ie too much self-criticism can cause a vicious cycle. With this type of self-talk decreasing your confidence further, a downward spiral of self-doubt and a sense of helplessness can develop. For example, people telling themselves that they need more confidence can result in a further loss of confidence.

As confidence can 'wax and wane', lacking confidence is not a permanent label. You need to understand what is behind it, ie what are the circumstances that make you feel like this, what is causing it and how can you overcome it? For example, is the lack of confidence because you are moving into new territory like a new position, new opportunity, new challenges, etc?

The aim is to generate solutions on how to build, or get back, your confidence, by experiencing an upward spiral effect, with energy-boosting positive emotions, increased sense of control, reduced nervousness and a greater sense of powerfulness.

Confidence can grow with courage, ie what do I have to do to give more confidence? Some possible answers include being better informed, specific planning, partnering with more experienced others, training to improve expertise, etc.

Additionally, you need to understand what has worked in the past and its possible applicability now.

NB People with gravitas develop their own confidence and also instil confidence in others.

Need to be careful of the impostor syndrome, ie the experience of intense feelings of intellectual phoniness and doubts about your own abilities. Some ways to handle this is to clarify your convictions, ie what matters and why, be intentional with maximum impact; work on your strengths; be courageous to take on new challenges, etc

3. Only charismatic people can have gravitas (myth). This is incorrect. People with gravitas do not necessarily have charisma!!!! Charisma is defined as

"...Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

More important than charisma is the ability to connect to people and a commitment to curiosity. Curiosity means embracing the unknown, ie acting with incomplete information.

Three things can hold back curiosity and embracing the unknown:    

    i) confirmation bias (more detail, elsewhere in the Knowledge Base)

"...a robust tendency for a person to look for, interpret, favour, and recall information in such a way that supports pre-existing beliefs and underweighs any confronting evidence......We are drawn toward information that confirms what we already know..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

We have a subconscious assumption that we know what is going on based on previous experience

    ii) lack of time, ie all too busy doing things to spend time connecting (including social conversation) and collaborating

    iii) expertise in the wrong paradigm, ie familiarity and comfort within your own narrow area of expertise that is not relevant

4. Those with gravitas feel comfortable (myth). People with gravitas are less likely to feel comfortable because they are constantly challenging themselves and putting themselves outside their zone of comfort - in fact, they have a sense of uneasiness

5. People with gravitas need to be the expert (myth). It's more about how you use your knowledge, rather than what you know; need the ability to offer clarity (to get to the key components of the issues) and insight (find solutions) especially with complex and/or challenging issues; generating greater shared understanding about what is happening.

"...People can have a great deal of knowledge on the topic but have no gravitas. They may be trusted, taken seriously and their ideas considered important, but they may not be respected..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

6. If I have more gravitas, you have less, ie a 'zero-sum-game' (myth). Gravitas is a win-win game because a person with gravitas encourages gravitas in others.

Some other misconceptions about gravitas include

- being a invincible superhero

- self-serving dominance or posturing

- being the 'loudest voice in the room'

- focus on standing-out personally, etc

Conversely, people with gravitas

"... Focus on people in the crowd - those around us. Instead of trying to separate ourselves and stand apart, we connect and stand behind (supporting), stand aside (collaborating), stand ahead with a guiding hand (leading)..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019


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