Gravitas

Maya Angelou

A wax figure of Maya Angelou seen on display at Madame Tussauds on December 6, 2013 in New York City.

I’ve been hearing the word “gravitas” a lot lately. Gravitas – poise under pressure, strength of character, self-esteem, confidence. It’s described as hard to define but visible to the naked eye. And, there’s debate about whether it can be learned or if it’s just part of the package – (or not).

Often I work with people to build what’s called in my world “executive presence.” And according to author Sylvia Ann Hewlett and research by the Center for Talent Innovation, the biggest contributor to mastering executive presence is developing gravitas.

In my experience, a key part of the equation is that word confidence. Yet we’ve all known people whose seeming over-confidence was a turn-off. So what’s the relationship between presence  (executive or otherwise) and confidence?

Confidence might be a prerequisite for external presence, the thing that attracts and influences others. Is that surprising? Let’s look at what destroys our ability to show up, focus on the matter at hand, listen and respond.

  • We are not present when we worry. Worry is almost always a condition of projecting the past onto the future, or simply making up stories of what the future might hold. Presence means we embody “now,” confident that the past has passed, and the future holds promise – within our creative control.
  • We are not externally present when we’re feeling negative emotions. People who have strong external presence can fluidly move from an emotional state to an objective state. The stamina to step outside and look in surely requires the confidence to trust what we might see.
  • We are not present when we are focused solely on ourselves, unless we happen to be alone and without any other inputs. It takes confidence to face whatever inputs show up.

In a post on The Spirited Woman, Pam Hale wrote a beautiful tribute to Maya Angelou. This woman embodied the word gravitas.

Can we learn to muster more of it? Oh yes, if Angelou could, we simply must.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

 

Inspired

Andrea Chilcote, Erik's HopeThink about something you do that inspires you, something for which you feel such passion that you never tire of it. Time seems to pass without notice.

Does that inspirational activity come to mind easily? Is it what you’re doing right now (or at least right before you began reading this post?) Is it your work? Your hobby? Your longing?

I’ve been thinking about inspiration a lot in the past few days, as I’ve prepared for an overdue vacation. I definitely am inspired by my work – oh, I don’t mean to imply every day is bliss, but the work itself is something I pursue with passion. And I can tell when I need a break, because I begin to get impatient and cynical, and the feelings start showing up, ever so slightly, in my day-to-day communication.

Writing is part of my work, a part I love. And one of the symptoms that appears when I need a break is a lack of inspiration for writing. So odd – that which usually energizes me becomes a drain. It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s more that the things I hold precious get lost in the sea of demands and to-do’s.

Just this week I saw a LinkedIn post entitled “What if you’re not passionate about anything?” I rolled my eyes and read no further. But seriously, I thought a lot about it. “How can that be?” I felt a sense of compassion for whoever wrote the statement, and wondered if lack of passion was an indication something else was at play.

One meaning of the word “inspire” is inhale, or breathe in. How interesting that taking a breath, literally or metaphorically in the form of a vacation, serves to engage. Regardless of the sense of mission or passion felt, we simply cannot give of ourselves without taking in. I think it’s a rule of our humanness.

So back to my earlier question, does the source of your inspiration come to mind easily? Or do you need a breath (or several) to gather the mojo or light the fire? I’ll be rekindling mine by the sea. Perhaps I’ll see you there.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!