Executive Presence for Women: How to Grow your Gravitas

Executive Presence for Women: How to Grow your Gravitas


Last month in Atlanta I spoke to a Women in Leadership Group. My audience was comprised of highly successful female leaders who help run a major corporation. They all understand the importance of executive presence for women, but even experienced leaders often wonder how to develop genuine, empowering gravitas.

Deepen Your Gravitas

I talked to them about the need for women, in particular, to develop gravitas as a quintessential component of their executive presence. This is especially important for women because we are judged more critically, under a less forgiving microscope.

There are also fewer female role models in top tier executive leadership positions to show us how to exude poise and grace under pressure. It is up to us to be those mentors as part of our legacy to younger women following in our footsteps.

Gravitas is Teachable

Like other aspects of executive presence for women, gravitas is a learned skill. The more you practice at being a leader who is comfortable in her own skin – and the more times you experience successfully landing on your feet in the midst of chaos – the more your gravitas will become internalized.

As a leader you never know what might be thrown your way. So a great skill to develop is to imagine a difficult scenario and then plan 3-4 contingencies for how you could deal with it and navigate those choppy waters.

Try These DIY Exercises

Watch the business news. Look for stories where the executives find themselves in the hot seat in front of the Board of Directors, shareholders, or the national media.

Now role play that same situation. How could you respond in a way that preserves the integrity of your brand and organization and showcases your ability to handle pressure without losing your cool?

Apply the same approach to preparing for a presentation in front of senior decision makers or important clients. What questions might they ask that could leave you flustered? How can you support your point of view or proposal? What facts and figures should you have at your fingertips just in case those hard questions arise?

Keep practicing the solving of these make-believe dilemmas on your own as homework. Over time you’ll develop an innate ability to more easily think on your feet and exude calm, reassuring presence. Then when it happens in real life as part of your leadership responsibility you’ll feel right at home.

Executive Presence for Women Equals Self-Awareness

Doing this kind of exercise will also make you more keenly aware of what areas of your executive presence need greater attention and development. Think of situations that have the potential to make you uncomfortable. Those highlight the vulnerabilities in your leadership where someone else like a boss or competitor could push your buttons and throw you off your game.

Bolster those and suddenly your fears will melt away as your perceived weaknesses are replaced by a rare kind of internal confidence. You’ll be more grounded in knowledge, expertise, and situational adaptability. As that gravitas develops inside of you, it will naturally radiate outwardly as a core facet of your external executive presence.

Do you think that males get a head start in our society in terms of developing their gravitas? If so, how can we even the playing field for girls, so that as young women they experience more fairness and equal opportunity?

As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2014, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS 1-800-267-3245, [email protected]

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