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Powerful Argumentative Strategies For Leadership

Written by: Lars Friedrich, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Lars Friedrich

Leadership is about skillful communication and also facing unavoidable arguments. Evidently, using logic and appealing to the emotions of those we speak to, one-to-one, a team, a company or even a bigger audience as a speaker, are powerful argumentative strategies.

Group of business people having a meeting at modern office

In not constantly reinventing the wheel while serving my clients, I always like to refer to the passed-down classical wisdom, works, texts and books of the Greeks and Romans, as we undeniably have not hugely changed and improved when talking about leadership communication and the subtleties, e.g., the probable arguments coming with it. Do you know Aristotle's ¹ three essential tools of persuasion? There's logos, or argument by logic; pathos, or argument by emotion; and ethos, also known as an argument by character, a strategy that relies on disputing the reputation and trustworthiness of others.


Structured reasoning

Logos is based on a series of techniques that employ structured reasoning instead of brute force to persuade others of your point of view, and one of these techniques, concession, is to agree with your "opponent" before shooting him down with a sharp reply. So, say you're in a political debate with a friend and are trying to get through the conversation without disagreement, hoping to avoid an escalation. Suddenly, your friend starts arguing that the world would be safer if there were more surveillance and control of communication, and you might concede that a safer world is suitable for everyone. But then you could get your shot in by asking whether he'd genuinely feel safer living in an Orwellian environment, ² where the government could watch his every move.


Aligning with feelings

Pathos, the root of the Greek word for "sympathy," is about aligning yourself with the feelings of those you talk to and argue with.


After all, a classic argumentative error is attempting to force the other arguer to change their feelings, like telling team members to cheer up after something went wrong with their project. But if you used pathos in this scenario instead, you would be empathic with them, leading them to sympathise with you, and, in turn, they would be more open to your thoughts as they feel understood.


A good reputation

Now that you know how logos and pathos work, it's time to take a look at Aristotle's third strategy: ethos. When you read more of him, it's evident that Aristotle was the godfather of rhetoric, and for him, the most crucial argumentative appeal of the three was ethos. He also understood that a good reputation goes beyond sound rhetorical reasoning.


Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. – Aristotle

For example, when Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865, was fighting to end slavery in America, his ideas weren't exactly popular. However, people liked him, which made all the difference when he sought to abolish slavery.


Being at home

But to truly understand ethos, we need to look at the word's origins. In Greek, "ethos," or "ethics," originally meant "habitat" – the environment a person occupies, which means being ethical is about "being at home" with your audience, sharing their values, manners and tone, and fitting in as snugly as a piece in a puzzle. The Romans also had a word for ethos – decorum, which refers to how a speaker encapsulates a crowd's collective voice. For instance, the movie "8 Mile", ³ a quasi-biopic of Eminem's rise to stardom, culminates in a hip-hop club where orators, depicted here as MC's, sling verbal attacks at each other. In the epic rapping finale, Eminem himself, nothing more than a white-trash bum, wins over the predominantly black crowd in tearing down the street credibility of his opponent by pointing out that he comes from a wealthy family and attended private school. This winning strategy definitely worked for Eminem's character in the film, but be careful when using ethos. Remember that convincing an audience using decorum doesn't mean mimicking them; instead, it's a matter of representing their ideal!


Representing an ideal

For example, when an ethical politician addresses a crowd, he has to seem as honest as possible, even if his constituents are committing fraud or cheating on their partners. Constituents, though far from perfect themselves, always want an ideal politician, and audiences always want a flawless orator! Clearly, presenting an appealing character is essential to winning over your audience.


Virtue

According to Aristotle, an ethos-based argument has three essential qualities. The first is virtue, which means you can persuade others by sharing their values, but to do that, you first need to know what values they hold and how you can embody them.


The greatest virtues are necessarily those most useful to others. – Aristotle

For instance, say you're reading a book while your teenage daughter listens to Taylor Swift's latest hit. You know that, at this age, teenagers consider independence paramount and that ordering her to turn off the music will undoubtedly backfire. So, a better option is to give her a choice, comforting her sense of independence and asking her whether she'd turn down the music or put on her headphones.


Practical wisdom

The second aspect of effective ethos is practical wisdom. That means you've got to look like someone who always knows what to do – an expert with first-hand experience. For example, Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981, had the exceptional credentials Americans look for in a presidential candidate. Therefore, he should have done fantastically as president! Still, he failed to secure a second term because he lacked the necessary practical knowledge he openly displayed during his first leadership term.


Showing off real-world experience generally, but specifically in leadership, is pretty effective, and indeed, street smarts are often more effective than book-learning scholars.


For instance, in current discussions about war, someone usually invokes their status as a veteran to gain the audience's trust.


Naturally, this first-hand experience means much more than studying war academically or all gained knowledge from news and articles on the subject.


Selflessness


The final quality of ethos is selflessness, which, in this context, means showing those you speak to that you have their interest in mind above all else.


You can do this by reaching an agreement that might appear to hurt you personally but which is undeniably correct!


For example, say you want a project to go through at work.


You might tell your team that, even if you don't get credit for the project as the designated leader, you'll still work late to make it happen – it's just too good to be passed up.


Guess what this open display of exemplary leadership will lead to?


Skillful communication


Evidently, leadership is all about skillful communication!


When facing unavoidable arguments, powerful strategies of using logic and appealing to the emotions of those we speak to are essential for anyone in a position of leadership or authority in corporate and entrepreneurial business environments.

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Lars Friedrich Brainz Magazine
 

Lars Friedrich, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lars Friedrich is an expert in personal & professional leadership transformations refined with a touch of Zen. As a former Officer & Special Forces Operator, executive in international & intercultural corporate positions and founder of his boutique business, he has vast accumulated experience, expertise & knowledge in leadership, resilience, endurance, commitment, persistence & dedication. Furthermore, Lars Friedrich trained in traditional Japanese Martial Arts for 42 years and frequently travels to Japan for his ongoing tuition, which amplifies his experience. With family ties & homes in Australia, Finland & Germany, he is proudly serving & guiding male & female leaders via shared knowledge & passion.

 

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