Aristotle devised three modes of persuasion or appeals involved in the art of communication — either written or oral. Before jumping into the conclusion that Ethos is the most effective leadership communication, it is equally important to identify the different appeals: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos.
Logos is, in a sense, primarily based on logic and reason. However, it is believed to be broader than formal logic which involves a highly symbolic and mathematical logic (Callaway, 2009). Although it concentrates on the logic of the argument, it does not really fit into daily arguments that happen apart from the academic or scholarly arguments. Pathos, on the other hand, revolves more around the emotions of the people involved in the argument. As Micheal Callaway (2009) states, “it is the cornerstone to moving people to action” (n.p.). A successful Pathos-driven argument can strike the hearts of its audience, creating a desire for them to act upon the action. Pathos-driven arguments are found in advertisements and protests. Finally, Ethos revolves around the trustworthiness of the speaker or the writer. Basically, the speaker or writer assures the audience of his or her intentions as positive or neutral, but never negative. If they believe the speaker or writer’s good intentions, then they will listen (Callaway, 2009).
This fact makes Ethos the most effective and most important of the three appeals in relation to achieving an effective leadership communication. To be able to lead requires the trust and belief in the leader of his or her followers, or at least his audience. According to Deborah Barrett (2009), “Ethos is an appeal based on the perceived character of the sender of the message” (p. 7). In order for leaders to communicate with their followers or audience, they are required to give an argument composed mainly of Ethos. Pathos has its limitations; it may appeal to the audience’s emotions, but trust is something that needs to be established between the leader and the audience. If the trust is never established, then the credibility of the argument and its facts would be deemed useless, as the audience would disbelieve the leader’s claims. Therefore, Ethos would most likely make the audience listen compared to using Pathos. Using a Logos-driven argument may also be ineffective as compared to Ethos simply because it is logic-based. If the audience could not trust the leader, they would not bother to listen even if the arguments were all based on facts.
Therefore, Ethos is the basic element of an argument. If the leader fails to convey his or her credibility to the audience, then they would not listen or would most likely disbelieve the leader. Although Pathos and Logos are also needed in leadership communication, Ethos establishes the link between the leader and the audience, leading to an effective communication between the two.
Barrett, D. (2005). Leadership Communication. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Callaway, M. (2009, May 6). Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Arizona State University. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from http://www.public.asu.edu/~macalla/logosethospathos.html.