Posted by Kate Phizackerley on 00:16

Many in business seem to conflate these two strangths.  They are closely allied but subtly different.  In the UK the contrast can perhaps best be explained by comparing Gordon Brown with Tony Blair. 

Brown can certainly be said to have gravitas.  It goes with his catchphrase of "prudence".  If somebody needed to give a speech to steady City nerves, then Brown was always a better choice than Brown.  But did he have presence?  I think not.  Certainly he lacked the presence and charisma of Blair.  There was never the sense of engagment with Brown that we came to expect from Blair - and ultimately it was that lack of charisma and presence that we his political downfall.  Gravitas is important; but it is neither the same as presence and charisma, nor indeed sufficient without them.

I have written before about developing presence.  It is certainly something that can be learned.  People say that gravitas can also be learned - starting with simple things like a slower pace of delivery, concentrating only on the key points and generally adpoting some of the traits seen in people with gravitas.  It may help.  I may try it.  I have doubts however as very few women I have known have really had very strong gravitas - and those that do seem to have lost somethimg of their openess and approachability.  Hilary Clinton is perhaps a good example of a woman with gravitas - but it seems to me that it has been achieved at the price of some of the brightness she displayed earlier in her career.  I do wonder whether many women might be better working on presence and being engaging rather than striving for gravitas.  Maybe there is a gener difference?

There certainly are physical factors.  We tend to associate physical stolidity with gravitas.  Could a size zero model develop gravitas?  Maybe, but I think it would be hard.  Indeed, going back to our orginal comparison I think a part of the reason why Gordon Brown displays more gravitas than Tony Blair has something to do with his physique. 

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