Gravitas: it’s (mostly) about communication

I went in search of an article on Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Executive Presence because someone mentioned that she identified “communication skills” as the major component of executive demeanor.

That’s not exactly right. “Gravitas” turns out to be a bit more than two times as important as communication, but both of them significantly outweigh the third element, appearance. (I wrote about that yesterday.) Still, I wonder if a woman with a swollen, wart-covered, purple nose would have achieved quite the same level of success as financier J.P. Morgan, whose photo illustrates the Fortune article linked above.

Still, Hewlett’s statistics are a bit misleading, because communication is one of the central ways leaders express their gravitas:

“A big part of gravitas is a knack for conveying tremendous amounts of knowledge and giving people the impression you could go ‘six questions deep’ on the subject you’re talking about, but in a way that’s concise,” Hewlett explains. “Attention spans are so short now that, whether it’s in a speech or in a meeting, you have to show how you can add value in a way that’s both compelling and brief.”

Concise communication, communication that grabs listeners’ attention and delivers the information they need in a compelling way. Hewlett is playing my song.