Roman virtues & the C-level !


 “ The gentleman ought to have ‘gravitas’ “, said a suited gentleman to someone on the phone.

I felt my toe wriggle inside my shoe as the aircraft was taxiing. We were all set to take off and in the stillness of the silence inside the aircraft, I couldn’t help overhearing him mention ‘gravitas’ many times over in the conversation.

It turned out he represented an executive search firm. ‘We deal only with ‘C’-level’. He said in mid-air. To the gentleman seated next to him.

Now, This is not the first time I heard of ‘gravitas’.  But the emphasis on gravitas intrigued me no end. Immediately, upon landing I looked up ‘gravitas’.

“It may be translated variously as weight, seriousness, dignity, or importance, and connotes a certain substance or depth of personality.” Said Wikipedia in the entry for gravitas

Seriousness. Solemnity. Importance. Perhaps one would be able to look at / interact with someone and say he or she has (or lacks) gravitas.

Wikipedia didn’t stop there. It says, “This is one of four roman virtues.” Infact it starts with that line.  Curious, I dived deeper to figure out what the other virtues were.

Listed there were

Peitas seemed to be loosely associated with duty and devotion.

Dignitas is about suitability, worthiness, dignity of style and honour

Vertus connotes valour, excellence, courage.

These then, were what the Romans thought as virtues.

So, a Mr.Complete XYZ could best be described as someone who is serious, has a depth of personality. A  devoted person who completes his duties with diligence, excellence, style and courage.

That’s a whole heap.

These ofcourse, are Roman virtues. Things perhaps were different back then. Other virtues could have come up as the times changed, but the fundamental tenacity of these as strong ‘virtues’ don’t change. I mean, who can argue with excellence, duty, diligence etc ?

But somehow, ‘Gravitas’ seems to have stuck as a requirement for ‘C-Level’ positions. With a great degree of pre-eminence. Whatever happened to Peitas, Dignitas and Vertus? Perhaps the state of the corporate world and the world in general seems to indicate that these virtues don’t hold a great deal of interest.

The character ethic receding in the face of the importance the ‘personality’ ethic couldnt have had a better example.

What do you think ?

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