Oct 10

What Aristotle Can (Still) Teach Us About Words That Matter

Lynn Casey

Lynn Casey
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Padilla Spear Beardsley

Reading “Learn to Speak the Three Languages of Leadership” (Harvard Business Review) brought back memories of my firm’s former CEO, John Beardsley, whose rabid insistence that Words Matter made a lasting impression on the 115 members of our firm. John quoted Greek and Roman philosophers, particularly Aristotle, incessantly as proof that what we say — if crafted well — has the power to inspire action. You’ll want to check out this brief read and send it on to others in your organization who are tasked with executive communications. It’s a good reminder of the three “languages” needed to get people to follow a leader’s lead: logos, ethos and pathos.

The piece will prompt another thought. What if we’re working with leaders who don’t come by these qualities naturally — particularly ethos (deep values, big dreams) and pathos (care and concern for others)? As we enable senior leadership be more compelling and/or empathetic than their followers know them to be in order to advance the mission and vision, are we furthering the Authentic Enterprise or working against it? I’m betting on the former. Because as leaders trust us to work with their words, we gain opportunities to tell them when what they do doesn’t reflect what they say.

The “trusted advisor” role is rarely called out in the CCO job description. It lives in the white space between the list of competencies and requirements. More articles like “Languages of Leadership,” in places like HBR, will make that part of our role more apparent and — for many CCOs — more appreciated.


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  • INSIGHT Bruce Harrison on October 12th, 2011

    The HBR piece is very good, and Lynn, your commentary is excellent, perceptive, relevant to the corporate communicator, as collaborator and enabler of leadership communication. Many thanks. I’m tweeting and LinkInning to everyone I know. And thanks for your gracious memory of John, a very practical philosopher, man of works and man of words.

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