Antoinette is an executive coach and speaker with over 25 years’ experience in leadership communications, including 16 years holding senior positions in some of the world’s top PR agencies.
Frustrated by the insight that many leaders get told they ‘need’ more gravitas/executive presence/confidence to succeed without being shown how, she launched The Gravitas Programme to do just that, inspiring and enabling leaders to fulfil their potential.
Her unique methodology is based on extensive global research into the six qualities that combine to make up this essential and yet often intangible business skill. Her belief is that anyone can develop gravitas if they choose to.
She’s author of two books: Leading with Gravitas: Unlock the Six Keys to Impact and Influence and Power Up: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Unleashing Her Potential, which has been featured extensively in the media and shortlisted in the Business Book Awards under the category of exceptional book that promotes diversity.
As a Fellow of the Professional Speaking Association and the Global Speakers Federation, she’s frequently invited to deliver keynotes and speak on panels about gravitas, leadership and promoting the cause of women in business. She’s an accredited speaker for VISTAGE, the global organisation for MDs, CEOs and leaders.
A qualified and accredited executive coach (PCC: International Coach Federation) she works across the public and private sectors, delivering bespoke solutions to longstanding clients in financial services, law, pharmaceuticals, construction, technology and communications, as well as the public sector.
Devoted to gender equality and inclusion, she spent three years as trustee chair for BelEve, a charity that inspires and empowers girls aged 8 to 18 to become leaders of their world. In 2019 she delivered her first TEDx, Gender Equality: The New Power Dynamic.
Antoinette’s story: from tongue-tied to TED
I haven’t always been the most confident person in the room. When I was growing up, I was acutely self-conscious. On my first day at primary school, I made a mistake and one of the teachers challenged me to explain myself. Tongue-tied and blushing, I couldn’t defend myself and wished the ground would swallow me up.
Perhaps as a reaction to those early feelings of powerlessness, throughout my early career I challenged myself to speak up, even though I’d blush, and volunteer for high-profile projects even though I didn’t feel fully qualified. I noticed that it was often the loudest people who got noticed, and the quieter ones who had to fight extra hard to progress. Role by role, I pushed myself out there. Each time I did this, I noticed my comfort zone expanding and my voice getting stronger.
The word gravitas has a special significance for me. It was a buzz word in the PR world I occupied, many of us were told that to get promoted, we need to have ‘it’.
Trouble was, we never got told what it was or how to go about getting it! I realized that having gravitas meant the ability to lead high profile accounts, handle crises calmly, push back against unrealistic demands and represent at the highest level. And that you didn’t need the loudest voice to achieve that, but you did need clarity and conviction.
My ‘a-ha’ moment came after I’d set up my own business. By this point, I was delivering leadership programmes and training executives in communication skills, sharing all the lessons I’d learnt through my corporate career.
One particular day, I was coaching leaders at an investment bank, and three in a row came in and said: “I’m being told I need to develop my gravitas: do you have any idea how I should do that?”.
That was the catalyst that inspired the research, the book and the programme. My aim was to decode this essential, yet intangible quality into a leadership skill that could not only be learnt, but accelerated. Today, I’m honoured to say the programme has made a massive difference to leaders in various sectors all around the world.
My latest adventure has been to focus on the theme of power. My inspiration was the #metoo movement which coincided with the start of gender pay gap reporting and my youngest daughter becoming a teenager. I became acutely aware that the playing field simply isn’t even and wondered what I could do to redress the balance.
Through my work with girls’ empowerment charity, BelEve UK, I realized how powerful conditioning from a very young age can feed into insecurity and inequality and how detrimental this can be to a woman’s potential. Inspired by the senior women I was coaching, who told me they wished they’d work with me sooner, I designed the Gravitas for Women programme, wrote Power Up and delivered my first TEDx, calling on women to power up and encouraging everyone in the workplace to empower one another.
A lot has happened since that first day at primary school. I’ve found my voice and inspired countless others to find theirs. I hope my story inspires you to speak up, stand out and step up, because the world needs to hear your message and you deserve to become the person you were born to be.