Monthly Archives: May 2012

Leadership and The Art of Persuasion


Most people only know about rhetoric when it is ’empty’ – could you, hand on heart, say what it actually was? Until I read a book just recently I didn’t quite understand how important the mastery of this could be for leaders and managers too (and I don’t mean the mastery of empty rhetoric!). The book, ‘You Talkin’ to Me – Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama’ by Sam Leith, is a fantastically good read . It helps you to understand the basics and more importantly what you can do to get better. A fundemental skill reqiured for good leadership too.

Rhetoric – the art of persuasion: the attempt by one human being to influence another in words. Simple isn’t it. And isn’t that something that every single day we have to do, in almost every part of what we do as leaders or managers of teams? We don’t work in businesses where people simply follow orders. We have instructions and requests, and things that we want to have happen to get things done, but almost all of the time our conversations with people involve some sort of persuasion.

Would you mind….? How about if….? I know how you might be feeling about this as I’ve been there, but..;What you need to do is not only talk the talk, but walk the talk…. We all have our styles and methods, some good, some (very) bad! The book is great in describing what exactly is going on when we use these words and phrases, with the terms and names, if you want to learn them (- I didn’t), and by doing so can teach you loads.

Example: ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears…’ – an appeal to Ethos – ‘I am like you, we (friends), are together and you should really listen to me…..’ If you only learn about Ethos, Logos and Pathos you will be well on your way!

With famous speeches from Churchill, Obama and many others, as well as lesser known examples, Sam Leith takes you through the whole thing. I highly recommend it as almost essential reading for leaders and managers who need to persuade people, and those like me who, from time to time have to get up and speak to bigger groups or teams……Isn’t that all of us though?

(P.S. Have I persuaded you?!)