Gravitas (grav-i-tahs) seriousness or sobriety, as of conduct or speech.
Historically, to be considered an authority in almost any field, you needed an off-the-charts level of seriousness, of gravity.
And while that still rings true for deeply researched fields with long apprenticeships—like medicine, engineering and law—it’s far less so with other specialties.
So how much gravitas do you need to be an authority?
Answer: You build the unique mix of seriousness and lightness that best matches your natural delivery style, your topic and your ideal audience.
Think of it as a sliding scale from heavy to light…
Heavy gravitas: An architect (or even a starchitect) for huge commercial projects that take years from concept to occupancy.
What make gravitas so important here: it’s a highly technical, regulated profession and the sheer visibility, size and length of each project make it a huge bet for the buyer.
The architect in this situation has to deal with multiple personalities, egos, power structures and constituencies over years, sometimes even a decade or more.
Which makes steady, reliable seriousness of purpose essential to building and maintaining your authority.
Medium gravitas: Brand strategy for large B2C corporates.
You’re in a creatively strategic field with some big power players, so you definitely need to demonstrate your deep knowledge, experience and outcomes.
But heavy gravitas? Not so much. Instead, finding your mix of warmth, professionalism and personality will make you not only memorable, but highly credible to your sweet spot.
Low gravitas: Teaching digital business owners how to write fun, compelling copy.
If ever there was a place for a healthy does of humor with your authority, creative copywriting would be it. You get to push the boundaries and are usually rewarded for it.
But sometimes, you can take even heavy topics—like say accounting and profit—and find a way to lighten them up to match your version of authority (like say Mike Michalowicz).
The bottom line is this: the closer your level of gravitas to how you naturally act and communicate in the world, the easier building your authority will become.