jon_hamm_02There are many qualities that my clients look for in a CFO. Obviously, significant experience and domain expertise in all things financial are high on the list. Some clients may focus on public company CFO experience or a specific industry may be more important at times. However, one quality EVERY company should demand in their executive leadership is gravitas. But how do you go about determining if a candidate has it?

Gravitas Defined

Last week I attended a workshop on personal branding sponsored by the San Jose Business Journal and led by Karen Leland, principal of the Sterling Marketing Group. (Please see her contact information below.) Karen laid out six specific attributes that make up gravitas. Here’s how I describe it: gravitas in the corporate world is like statesmanship in the political world. It’s having the confidence and consistent performance that commands respect, and inspires others to move forward together. Some people have it, some don’t, and others can develop it.

Who’s Got It?

CEOs may say that they feel the gravitas of a person on an instinctual level. I have heard the phrase: so and so fills up the room with his or her presence. But it is much more than just presence; it entails several distinct attributes that can and should be evaluated in detail throughout the hiring process.

In a recent study by the Center for Talent Innovation, author Sylvia Ann Hewlett presents some fascinating findings on executive presence. Almost 70% of those surveyed respondents hold gravitas as the top quality they are looking for in their leaders. This calls out for a deep dive into understanding what it is, and what one do to strengthen this intangible and somewhat nebulous quality. If you are a CEO, CFO or aspiring C-suite professional, not only should you read Hewlett’s report, I recommend you take a personal inventory of the three key qualities identified in the study which lead to ideal executive presence: Communications, Appearance, and Gravitas.

Finding Gravitas

I believe what holds back most people from the C-suite is oftentimes the lack of gravitas – not technical ability or political acumen. It can be evaluated by an expert interviewer if he or she knows what to look for, and what questions to ask.

I welcome your comments: what’s your take on gravitas if you are thinking about how to hire a CFO? I would love to converse on this capital topic.

To find out more about the process I use to evaluate a candidate’s gravitas and other qualities that constitute idea executive presence, please contact me, Dave Arnold at 408-205-7373 or You can also learn some great interviewing tips from my blog post How to Interview a CFO Candidate

Also, please look for a guest blog by Karen in the weeks to come here at Arnold Partners.

Karen Leland – Marketing/Branding/Content