Any long-time readers of Execs and the City will recognize that I'm no stranger to examining rhetoric—and doing my best impression to help you use it in your career.
I am strongly interested in Aristotle.
The tenets of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos — or, more plainly, credibility, emotion, and logic — make for a compelling baseline when evaluating an executive leader's ability to perform.
I'm working on a theory — and I'd love for you to chime in with your thoughts to help me polish and share with others. Text me or email me after you read with your thoughts, please.
Here we go.
Rhetorical Acumen As A Hierarchy
I am in the early days of this theory, and I have been experimenting with recent clients with notable success of late—so bear with me.
I have a sneaking suspicion that one's ability to master rhetoric connects to one's progress up the proverbial corporate ladder.
In your early career, your primary rhetorical mastery centers around ETHOS - building your credibility by being a badass at your job.
Typically, this means you are a tactician and master of some organizational function.
For example, you slay at design, you code like a monster, or you can sling snake oil like the best of the sales junkies.
But the best — and most credible tacticians — don't necessarily make the best leaders.
Rallying and leading a team is much more than being objectively good at what you do.
As we coach these high performers to become managers and leaders, you'll notice that these individuals become better and better at LOGOS — and they can now tie their work and their team's work to a logical outcome for the business.
If they can measure their impact in other departments and teams, these less experienced leaders quickly become high-potentials or HIPOs to their executive leaders.
Depending on the organization's size, these are the folks you find in Director and VP roles.
The term HIPO tends to skew toward a younger perception, but age shouldn't cloud your judgment on high-potential talent.
In this stage, many careers and, subsequently, their compensation growth—stall out.
Perhaps you have felt this way—or articulated the plateau and frustration. It feels stifling.
Or perhaps—I have recency bias as I have been working with several executive leaders searching for that missing piece that will catapult them into the upper echelon of career mastery.
I now have enough coaching experience to diagnose these challenges more regularly (and know what to do about it).
When you start observing what the top executives are doing—I'm talking about the 7-figure+ earners, not just any SVP or C-suite leader—you'll begin to find a harmony of Ethos, PATHOS, and Logos.
They master emotional depth to influence entire organizations and teams for big-time results.
The overly simplified version of my theory goes like this:
- Manager/Director = ETHOS
- Director/VP = ETHOS + LOGOS
- VP/C-Suite = ETHOS + PATHOS + LOGOS
Of course, this rule has countless nuances—as many leaders will have some aptitudes in each rhetorical baseline—but mastery is required for everything to sync harmoniously.
So, where do you grow from here?
Logic & Credibility Is Not Enough
I spoke with a notably accomplished and highly recommended leader just last week.
We were strategizing how to help them build an argument to get others at the organization to care about their team.
To persuade the top executive leaders to take their work seriously.
You know how there are phases of a business where the 'golden child' always gets the attention?
In the early days, it's engineering and product teams. They get all the love.
Then it's sales and revenue.
Then that's it. Heh heh.
You must quickly highlight how your efforts make the company money to get meaningful attention and resources.
HR, Ops, Marketing, Design, Customer Success, etc. — they are necessary to make a business hum — but too often, they are treated like the red-headed stepchild of the business. (I can say that as I am a red-headed stepchild).
In other words — they aren't always valued or understood as anything more than a cost center on the P&L.
I bet you know how that feels. (PATHOS)
Back to the story --
My client is in those shoes—and those shoes are frustrating AF.
Here we have a credible leader with a logical track record of excellent performance, which is enough to win the job, but more is needed to win support for their new role.
We brainstormed ways to build an emotional connection with other leaders in the organization so that we can ARM THEM with the information we need echoed repeatedly — to create a more compelling case for our work.
Ultimately, this work will lead to promotion and more opportunities.
This strategy is different from playing politics.
This strategy embodies the SOFT SKILLS necessary to dominate at an executive level.
Use it for good or evil — manipulation or innovation.
Develop Your Pathos
If you're interested in diving deep into this topic, pick up a copy of Influence by Robert Cialdini (available on the ThinkWarwick bookshelf).
The principles of influence and persuasion are necessary to take your career to the next level.
These strategies will fuel your work today, daily negotiations, and ability to reach unfathomable career success.
If you're too lazy for that - stay subscribed, and I'll keep sharing the lessons I learn.
(Plus, we need to talk about KAIROS — and how to use all of this at the right TIME, more on that in a later article.)
Oh, and send this newsletter to a friend. Quit holding out on them.
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