I took over my global role at ATOS (with 110,000 people in 73 countries) in 2009 — the first Indian and first woman to do so. Our global CEO at that time encouraged me during my interaction with him at his office in Paris. His words rang a bell: “You should seek to have more gravitas to sit at the global table.”
This unfamiliar term, I later found out, was about executive presence and leadership effectiveness, emerging from a mixture of poise, confidence and authenticity. According to Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, “Gravitas connotes seriousness of purpose, solemn and dignified behavior and being perceived as important and compelling while combining style and substance.”
Leaders with gravitas lead better; manage, present and network better in difficult, unprecedented situations with their ability to read and handle various stakeholders; and can make tough decisions.
My French boss explained, “I can coach you to sit at the global table, but I cannot teach you how to be and like yourself. Gravitas would have a powerful impact by being more yourself, rather than like a European or American. It’s not about adopting an alien style or being someone you’re not.”
I started self-discovery through coaching. Working remotely from my India home office and Paris headquarters office, I set smart goals for upgrading myself every two weeks to gain the needed gravitas so that I would be valued, respected and trusted in my global role while retaining my personality, values and culture.
Instead of trying to stand out among my multi-national teams and peers from 73 countries, I focused on connecting with them and understanding their needs from my newly pioneered two global functions (global portfolio and global knowledge management) in order to make a difference and exceed our joint global targets.
I remained true to myself while adapting successfully to working with all with their different management, leadership, temperament, cultural and social styles. I slowly transformed as I embraced building more trusted, meaningful bonding with all.
I radiated real gravitas as sensed by others as I could persuade and influence in a global matrix organization, which, in turn, benefitted, as I continuously added value. My voice was heard seriously and my contributions were considered important.
Do you face similar challenges in retaining your individuality but enhancing your gravitas?
As Dr. Rebecca Newton explains in her book, Authentic Gravitas, “Having a powerful, meaningful impact on others is not about being the most dominant person in the room; it’s about being intentional, curious, and courageous.”
Here are seven ways to increase your gravitas. Some of these qualities can be developed more easily with coaching.
1. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
With this internal quality, you grow your self-awareness and recognize your abilities and, subsequently, your self-worth. This self-possession increases your ability to master your passions and to discover your internal power. I have been applying the spirit of EQ since learning directly from Daniel Goleman in 1996.
As much as possible, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the topics that you talk about because knowledge is power. Correct application of knowledge after assimilation adds to your gravitas. Adding value needs to be the main purpose of this exercise. Personally, I am a philomath, and I try to add value for anybody interacting with me.
3. Absolute Clarity About Values And Goals
Look for ways to achieve goals that are in sync with your prioritized personal values. I never compromised on my values and Indian culture, irrespective of occasional provocative remarks. I chose not to give it any space in my mindscape.
4. Proactively Sourced Feedback
While forging meaningful connections, be receptive to candid feedback that lets you know how your interaction was perceived by others. This openness indicates if the intended impact is indeed happening and helps build healthy relationships.
I used to take quarterly personal feedback from each member of my distributed global team to get insights on what changes I could make or what could I do more effectively. Probing for feedback on specific areas instead of being satisfied with generic feedback goes a long way.
5. Genuine Investment Of Time In Meaningful Conversation
It is a must to check in with your team consistently rather than succumbing to tunnel vision on your daily checklist and agendas — more so during remote working.
Maintaining emotional intelligence enables you to easily and strongly connect with and influence others, and it also gives you information that gives you an edge for effective collaboration.
On my overseas work travel, I used to set up one-to-one meetings over meals to encourage informal interaction with my globally distributed teams, colleagues or clients and to forge a better alliance.
6. Emphasis On Calculated Risk-Taking Courage
Not surprisingly, self-confidence is a critical aspect of gravitas. Work on acquiring it (instead of faking it), lest the lack of it become a barrier.
Initially, inevitably, I felt like I was thrown into the deep end in the new fast-paced global environment I found myself in. So, I took to looking at myself in the mirror every morning and giving myself a pep talk. Rather than faking confidence, I accepted my vulnerability and then faced it with all the courage I could muster. Confidence naturally built up over time as I continued to pursue my goals courageously, despite perceived risks and threats.
7. Non-Negotiable Commitment Toward Integrity
Integrity gives one the courage to be original when it comes to sharing views and opinions that might incur resistance as compared to more mainstream ideas. One acknowledges the discomfort within but takes a leap of faith and acts anyway.
Intrapersonal gravitas comes into play here. It shines a light on the clarity of intent and subsequent communication by empathizing with people you work with — all without compromising on your innermost values.
It is possible to enhance your gravitas while still retaining the essence of what makes you uniquely you!
The inner journey to acquiring gravitas, that touches one’s personality, balancing outside appearance with inside solidity, does not come in the form of a quick fix but with consistent effort, training and coaching.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com [link to original article click here]
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