Gravitas is the elusive quality of being taken seriously.

In a meeting, when you speak, do people spontaneously quiet down, listen to you, and take notes?

If so, you have gravitas.

If not, you have an opportunity to increase your executive presence so your ideas get taken more seriously.

In every meeting, there are two kinds of questions asked:

  1. Everyday Questions
  2. Power Questions

An everyday question is one that’s necessary but not of any major significance.

When’s the next staff meeting?

What’s the main idea you’re covering on slide #6?

When will XYZ project be completed?

These kinds of questions are needed to ensure basic understanding and to avoid miscommunications.

When you have such questions, you should, by all means, ask them.

However, asking these questions alone does not raise your stature or respect in the eyes of your peers, boss, and your boss’s peers.

(They don’t diminish them either… they’re merely neutral.)

If you want to be taken more seriously, you must learn to ask something I call “power questions.”

Power questions are the kinds of questions and comments that only senior executives and CEOs tend to ask/make.

When you ask such questions in the presence of senior executives, they can’t help but unconsciously see you as a peer — because you sound exactly like them.

When I worked in industry in my early 20s, I routinely had people come up to me and say, “Victor, you’re obviously going to be CEO of the company someday.”

Although I had no such aspirations, the comments occurred so frequently I figured I must be doing something to garner such respect and admiration.

Looking back, I realized it was because I was asking “power questions” — the kinds of questions I used to ask in meetings in Fortune 500 boardrooms when I was at McKinsey.

A power question is the kind of question that demonstrates your stature without ever threatening the power hierarchy in your organization.

It’s a question that both respects others, while simultaneously challenging them in a very respectful, productive way.

To learn more about power questions and other ways to elevate your gravitas, consider my program on How to Develop Gravitas. It will be available in a limited release later this month.

To be notified when the program is available, just submit the form below.