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In interview situations, I’ve coached many school leaders and teachers about the importance of presenting oneself in a confident manner. Some refer to this as gravitas. Gravitas is the ability to project self-confidence, influence, credibility, and command respect. When you speak, others listen. Do not confuse gravitas with arrogance. People who project gravitas are thoughtful; they think before they speak and bring substance to the conversation. Remember that the court jester never becomes the king or the queen.
In seeking a position as a school leader or a teacher, you must convince your potential supervisors that you are the kind of person who brings a certain bearing to the position. The teacher must be the adult leader in the classroom. In the context of a job interview, here are several methods to project your gravitas:
People with gravitas are attentive to what is really being asked, the underlying issues and agendas. So, you must listen to the question, take a moment to formulate a thoughtful response, and draw upon your self-assurance that your response will have value. This can be done quietly without trying to compete in being the smartest person in the room. Be respectful of the other people around the table who may be more accomplished and experienced than you. Be confident in knowing that your thoughts have value too.
It’s not about winning an argument or out shining a competitor. It’s about putting forth relevant ideas that add to and guide the conversation. Someone who is self-confident and secure treats everyone with respect, even those who might not treat you with respect.
Remember the lyrics to the old song, “You’re got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em ...”. Be mindful about timing what to say and when to say it. Try to make your ideas concise, on point, and clear. Don’t repeat yourself. When possible, try to tailgate onto someone else’s idea. Ask questions, but keep them on topic, and avoid long introductions to your question. Questions are not “gotcha” opportunities. Your goal should be to try to guide the process in productive directions.
As an employer, I want to hire professionals—adults. People with gravitas speak like adults. Too many young people saturate their sentences with word fillers and phrases such as “like”, “you know”, “at the end of the day”, “to be honest,” and “in reference to”. You know what I mean! Also, avoid ending your sentences with an upward inflection to your voice as if you’re asking a question rather than making a statement. You want to be taken seriously. Therefore, you cannot just dress and look like a professional, you must also sound like a professional.
There is a thin line separating arrogance and gravitas. Arrogance means that you’re perceived as coming across as overbearing, conceited, a know it all, someone who has a lot to say but really offers little in the way of substance. Most of us are repelled by arrogance in others. To me, the opposite of arrogance is modesty. Oftentimes, less is more. We admire wisdom. I once asked an extremely successful businessperson about his newest venture. He described his new business in one sentence. I commented, “You did that in one sentence.” He smiled politely and responded, “If you can’t explain something in one sentence, then you don’t understand what you’re talking about”. That’s gravitas.
How are my responses being received? Is my audience hearing me? Are they resonating with my ideas? Are they nodding and smiling? Exercising your gravitas is not a trick—it’s a matter of being effective. When gravitas is lacking, people notice, and when it’s there, it’s magic.
When you walk away from the table, you want your audience to say, “That candidate really held our attention and was most impressive.
Dr. Aronstein is a career coach who works one-on-one with leaders and aspiring leaders in developing their resume and preparing for job interviews. Learn more at www.laryyaronstein.com