Three Qualities People Look For in Leaders

On March 15 1987, Dick Berg inaugurated one of the biggest scandals to ever be unleashed in Kenyan history. The American convinced the gullible Kenyan Sports Ministry officials that his firm, Berg and Associates, could help collect over Sh224 million to market the All-African Games. He claimed he had done this at the Los Angeles Olympics and no one bothered to check the facts.

[tds_note]People can spot a fake or a pretender from a mile away. In today’s world, people are weary of being “sold” or “marketed” to by incompetent baboozlers. Being an authentic, ethical leader with character is the most important. Yet, we must work had at improving our competency in whatever field we are working.[/tds_note]

Berg was granted exclusive business rights to market the games and brought some big sponsorship deals from the likes Coca-Cola and House of Manji. The Minister of Sports, Henry Kosgey, did not know that Berg was “an international crook”. While he was to market the games internationally, the Ministry only received Sh5 million before Berg hurriedly left the country in a cloud of shame. Dick Berg has lost his credibility and has a life-time ban from entering Kenya.

The reason Dick Berg lost his credibility is the same reason all leaders lose their credibility. They didn’t walk the walk. Even in today’s post-modern world, once your credibility is gone, it is very difficult to get it back. Just ask Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby, Brian Williams, or you fill in the blank with a name.

[ads-quote-center cite=”]What is credibility and how can leaders cultivate it?[/ads-quote-center]

The English word credible finds its source in the Latin word for “believe”. In his book, On Rhetoric, Aristotle tells us  that a person’s ability to persuade and influence is rooted in three factors: ethos, pathos and logos. These three traits: known as:

  • CHARACTER (ethos)
  • PASSION (pathos)
  • SPEECH (logos) 

First, there is ethos. This is the speaker’s willingness and ability to project a trustworthy persona. It means things like integrity, transparency, honesty, grace and truth. On the one hand, this is great because ethos doesn’t require a PhD or lots of money. On the other hand, it is scary because there’s a high-intensity spotlight aimed at the character of every leader.

Ethos itself can be subdivided into three aspects: wisdom, virtue and good will. Wisdom is your ability to know and understand both sides of an issues. For example, if your neighbor asks you about your new sprinkler and you tell him the pros and the cons, you are more credible than if you only mention the good things. Virtue, sometimes socially constructed, over the centuries has remained surprisingly consistent. Things like justice, courage and self-control are always admired no matter what culture you are in. Recently, some have pointed out that virtues can be both in conduct but also associated with thinking. Goodwill is the last feature of ethos. This occurs when a leader disadvantages themselves to advantage others(especially their enemies). Central to the posture of goodwill is pointing out the worthiness of another.

Pathos is the passion, emotion, feeling, zeal, intense fury or even rage with which something is expressed. It is the emotive content of a message. This is one of the most neglected elements in our world today. Why? in general it is because we, men in particular, have been shaped to think and not to express feelings. Men are supposed to be stoic. The stronger you are, the less you express your emotions. On top of this, we are all aware of when a leader may use emotions to manipulate followers by shedding “crocodile tears”.

But a leader, especially a Christian leader, who acts and speaks without any emotional display is equally dangerous. How can you lead people towards something that has not gripped your inner being? It was once said of the famous preacher, Moody, that he was one of the few people qualified to speak about hell, because he could not talk about it without weeping. If your message does not move you, if it does not seem to have an impact upon your heart, then how can you expect it to have an impact on anyone else? Leaders must speak with an urgency as if it is a matter of life and death.

Finally, there is logos. What does logos mean in English? It means “word”. We get our English word “logic” from the Greek. It refers to the verbal content of a leader’s communication, but it also includes the craft, the artistic merit and the logic of a leader’s words.

The only way I know how to improve your ability to reason and use words is to be a reader. All leaders are readers because they interact with other ideas, concepts and words. When you aren’t improving your critical thinking, vocabulary, and your knowledge of new concepts, then your ability to influence others diminishes.

Logos appeals to a follower’s intelligence and offers evidence in support of what you are trying to say. Logos also increases ethos because the organized presentation of information makes you look knowledgeable. When you have well-presented powerpoint slides, even if you haven’t prepared, the perception is that you are organized. This causes your audience to give you more credibility and authority. A well-reasoned presentation, with ample evidence, is not easily dismissed by your followers.

Another important aspect of logos is that you know your audience. Who are you speaking to? Are you challenging men to love their wives? Are you inspiring teenagers to keep their eyes on the prize? Are you communicating a basic truth from Scripture to small children? Speak the language of your audience. Do not use words that they don’t understand and avoid cliches or technical language.

All that being said, people can spot a fake or a pretender from a mile away. In today’s world, people are weary of being “sold” or “marketed” to by incompetent baboozlers. Being an authentic, ethical leader with character is the most important. Yet, we must work had at improving our competency in whatever field we are working.