In disruptive times, people look for something that will anchor them in the storm: a consistent point of safety, an unchangeable harbor, or a credible vision with a promise of prosperity.
While it’s best to find and build this capacity for stability from the inside, when they do look outside themselves, they look for leaders they can trust. What engenders this trust?
Our executive clients have told us for decades: Wise Gravitas. Wise Gravitas comprises a small, specific, suite: Gravitas is credibility built on competence but also hard-won character that serves equally the interests of the organization, employees, and other stakeholders. Wisdom, as we see it, is not as the accumulation of knowledge, nor the embracing of inclusive, high-minded values, but rather, the absence of illusion.
This combination of character and perspective requires not only transparency and authenticity but also having done the hard work of thinking through one’s values and taking a stand. People trust the solidity of your values, thinking, and perspective. You create insights just by the questions you ask. These questions often focus on what best serves all of us while also framing the nature of our situation. They address and establish the nature and scope of our social reality.
Leadership earns the privilege to define this social reality – only when individuals are at a loss to do so themselves. It is a delicate calculation as it can rob people of agency by supplanting their ability to establish a shared reality by adopting one you proffer. Wise Gravitas works toward creating the collective agency for people to ascertain and determine consciously their social and situational reality. In this approach, a leader protects and includes diverse perspectives, opens the conversation to safe and deep discussions, and enhances the agency of everyone in that conversation.
Although Wise Gravitas may sound like it’s based on what others see in you, its source springs from what you see in them. Where is your focus? Does the well-being of the individuals, the community or the organization come first in your mind? What is the question you are asking yourself when you choose to lead? How are you framing the journey you are all sharing? If you’ve made it about you, or about the organization enduring, and left out individual and community well-being, no amount of competence or power will create Wise Gravitas.