The Path to Pathos – Leading with Heart

By Tamara Carrillo McLeod February 14, 2023

One of the most memorable concepts I learned during my years of Communication studies was Artistotle’s three modes of persuasion- Ethos, Pathos and Logos. I often leverage those concepts strategically in the design, development, and delivery of presentations. However, it wasn’t until recently that I began to notice an interesting connection between Ethos – Pathos – Logos and the world of Leadership.  

 Ethos is the Greek word for ‘character’ and it is where the word ‘ethic’ is derived from. If we think of this from a leadership perspective, it is asking the simple question, “Do the people I lead believe in me and trust me?” Ethics and credibility are critical to both presentation delivery and leadership. If our audience or teams do not find us credible and trustworthy, they will not follow us or our message. 

Logos is Greek for ‘word’ and the word ‘logic’ comes from it. When we lead with Logos we are following our head and are relying on logic, strategy, or data to help inform our decisions. Leaning on logic is extremely important in both leading ourselves and our organizations. This is precisely why companies do customer surveys or why leaders participate in 360 assessments. We are eager to collect data and then utilize that data to develop strategies to grow and improve ourselves or our businesses. 

 Pathos is the Greek word for ‘experience’ and is the root of the word ‘empathy’. When we begin our presentation planning with the question, “How do I want my audience to feel?”, we are leaning on Pathos for guidance and inspiration. But, how often do you think of Pathos as it relates to your own leadership? In a leadership sense, pathos should inspire the simple question- “How do I want the people I lead to feel?” When we are leading ourselves, we can absolutely lead with our head and lean on logic, credibility, and data. However, in our effort to lead others, we must learn to lead with our heart. Relational leadership — Heart based leadership — Love based Leadership — call it what you wish, but there should be no question what this really means. It means caring about those you lead, taking a genuine interest in each of them, and making them feel seen and heard. It is getting to know them as individuals, as people, and not just as employees. We must recognize and interact with each member of the team as a unique human being who has interests, dreams, and values beyond the job description. 

Several years ago I watched the Seattle Seahawks win the Superbowl. What I remember most about that game was what happened afterwards. Instead of the team saying, “I want to go to Disneyland”, many of the Seahawk players said, “I love this man”. The man they were talking about was their coach, Pete Carroll. I was fascinated by this, so I began to read about Pete Carroll as a leader. I learned that he invested a great deal of time getting to know each of his players on the team personally. It was not uncommon for him to play basketball with the players outside of practice so that he could get to know them off the field. He invested the time to get to know them as men and individuals, not just as football players. And, that investment obviously paid off in dividends. Because Pete Carroll invested in his players with his whole heart, they put their whole heart into the game.  

 As leaders we must ask ourselves how Pathos can help shape our leadership. How can we care more, be more curious, and invest the time it takes to really get to know those we lead? Here are three simple ideas to get you started:

  1. Be curious. Show a genuine interest in your team and ask them questions that will allow you to get to know them as individuals.
  2. Learn their values. What motivates them, what brings them joy and what depletes them?
  3. Do a simple check in. Don’t wait until your next 1×1 or virtual meeting, pick up the phone today and do a quick check in. Ask them how they are doing and how you can support them.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” 

So tomorrow, find your path to Pathos and see where it might take you.

Relational & Heart Based Leadership is a skill we build in Elevate- our signature leadership development program. To learn more click the link below: