“How to lead on the three agendas?”


Didier Marlier

October 10, 2009

From Disruption to Engagement

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Leaders we work with, intuitively understand the value of working with three agendas (Logos or intellectual, Ethos or behavioural, Pathos or emotional) in order to sustain achievement. However, they sometimes find it confusing at the time of applying it. Here is a short “recipe” on how to lead on these.

Logos: Leaders need to co-create clarity and ownership around their vision, strategy, objectives, new organization or rationale. However, it is very difficult to impose clarity, leave alone ownership. As M. Wheatley said: “If we insist on obedience, we will never gain it for long and only it at the cost of what we wanted the most: loyalty, intelligence and responsiveness”. Engaging leaders create space and time for clarity and ownership, through open dialogue (not by fwding the powerpoint). They allow exploration, encourage questions, challenge their people to share doubts and concerns. They are clear about the negotiable and non negotiable. By being truly open and honest, they manage to create the “intellectually compelling” leg needed to come to an authentic engagement.

Ethos: “People don’t listen to what you say, they listen to what you do!” once told me a senior Citibanker. People are so used to the new “flavour of the month” that they will not take your desire for change seriously unless they see that you and your leaders “mean business”… And this means that you and your team will prove through visible and spectacular behavioural change that something is really taking place. So, carefully choosing, adopting and displaying the two to three behaviours which will best exemplify and support your strategic intent is critical if you want to be credible!

Pathos: Is the third leg of the engagement stool. Leaders must also be able to “emotionally engage” their people if they are to succeed. If Logos is the GPS (indicating a coherent route), Ethos the body (enabling the car to get somewhere), Pathos is the fuel to the engine. People will scrutinize their leaders for respect (inclusion), competence (control) and authenticity (openess) before unconditionally trusting and following them. How can leaders do it? In recent strategy alignment workshops, we have seen leaders reducing the distance and showing vulnerability by inviting the support of their people and admitting “temporary incompetence”, sharing their “Deep Intent” and what really drives them, making them suddenly human and reachable, inviting feedback and acting on it, increasing the trust of their followers, speaking straight and cutting the politically correct jargon, enthusiasming their people, carefully selecting the symbols and metaphors they would use to create a new common language in support of their strategic intent. Engaging leaders understand that their people need to be given space not only to co-create clarity on the Logos agenda but as well to realign their own Deep Intent with the new situation. The beginning of Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” shows this in an amazing manner (see clip on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGSBYi20T7c) : Maximus is about to engage launch his “ultimate battle”. He knows he will need to be totally present for his troops. Surprisingly, the movie shows him daydreaming of his home in Spain, remembering the melodious voice of his wife singing and the joyous laughing of his son… Maximus’ Deep Intent is now to go home. He reconnects with the strength of his emotion and re-aligns it with his “business challenge”: Winning this battle so that I may finally be reunited with my family.

We hope this will contribute to clarify how engaging leaders use Aristotles’ three agendas in today’s battlefield.

Up to Brussels and Zürich for fascinating workshops!­­­­­­­­­ Torino was outstanding, wonderfull clients and art of life! Special thanks to David Pearl (Pearl Group) who was the first one to share the Gladiator metaphor with me!


  1. Juan M. Gallego

    Good blog! After reading it, I think it is time to re-read some of the Greek classics and see how these old concepts apply to today´s business management. Definitely inspiring words to share with management teams. Thanks, Didier.

  2. didier

    Thank you Juan Ma. I would be curious to get your experience in how these concepts apply in mainland China, at your best convenience.
    Have a great week
    Abrazos Didier


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“Engaging Leadership” has been written for leaders who are about to engage their organisations in change."

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