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Logos, Pathos & Ethos, & Our National Leadership Diet

The following dialogue is common for me:

“Hey, Dave, I’m in training for the upcoming season and would like some diet advice.”

“Sure, Chad. I recommend a balanced diet.”

“But Dave, I want to lose weight, too.”

“Oh, in that case, I recommend a balanced diet.”

“Okay, but I also want to know what I should eat before a big event.”

“Hmm, let me think. Okay, I got it. I recommend a balanced diet.”

The people that ask me these questions know that I have done some very long cycling events and that I have spent many hours studying athletic performance diets. They expect me to announce some magic bullet that will give them that extra advantage over anyone else.

The right diet takes carbs, protein and fats. If you eliminate any of the three, your performance will suffer. There may be some cute little tricks, like proper doses of caffeine, but if the basics are not there, no amount of caffeine will help.

The following fictional scenario dwarfs the above dialogue in importance:

“Hey Dave, I’m getting ready for the rest of my life and need some leadership diet advice.”

“Sure, Kevin, I recommend a balanced diet of Pathos, Ethos and Logos.”


“I recommend that you develop your heart, head and gut through hard work and practice.”

“Wow, Dave. I think I hear my Mom calling me. It’s really late. I gotta run. See ya.”

People who want to make a difference often seek similar “magic bullet” tactics in the arena of leadership. They want seven steps or five skills or some shortcut that will replace hard work and study.

Just like an athletic performance enhancing diet, if you don’t take care of the basics, no number of free-lunch hotel seminars will make any difference.

Few people have been exposed to Aristotle, and that is a shame. He was the first true logician and spoke of the three keys to persuasion and argument as Logos (logic), Ethos (character) and Pathos (emotion).

In Thank You for Arguing, Jay Heinrichs says that if arguments were children, logos would be the brainy one. While Logos sweats over its GPA, Ethos is elected class president and Pathos is the youngest child who gets no respect but gets away with everything.

Or, as Jay Heinrichs writes, “Logicians and language snobs hate Pathos, but Aristotle recognized its usefulness.” Logic makes sense, but its Pathos that gets people off the couch and motivated to action.

America’s Leadership Diet

The graphs below show both a proper diet and the current American diet of leadership training.



But the charts don’t tell the whole story. In the same way that wheat bread and deep fried Twinkies are both combinations of carbs and fats but one has far greater value than the other, Pathos in a Lincoln address is different from Pathos in a Howard Dean rant.

The following graph is a closer depiction of the American diet.


About 50 years ago, think (Logos) began its retreat against feel (Pathos). At the same time, Ethos (identity/character), in a fast food move, turned inward and self-generated esteem, which was supposed to obviate the uncertainty and instability of societal feedback.

Of course it didn’t work. The new-found inwardness caused divorce rates to explode and worsened several other Ethos statistics. In his attempt to become an island, man found a McDonald’s.

Logos (the protein of the leadership diet) was tragically abandoned. When brain muscle began to atrophy, the experts tried to compensate with more Twinkies. They reasoned that 100% of people feel great while they eat them, and if you feel good, success will naturally follow.

50 years of pathos-based cakes, pies and especially ding dongs has clogged economic arteries, caused industrial low back pain, led to marital infractions, obscenely fattened the national debt and foreign policy has to use a walker and tow an oxygen tank.

Congress has established itself as the national meddling mother-in-law. She’s an expert flaw identifier, but has no interest in solutions that don’t give her more power, recognition or influence.

In her current acerbic bluster, she is incapable of any contribution toward either dietary balance or improvement. Congress is neither the cause nor the solution but an inevitable symptom of an unbalanced, lard- and sugar-based national leadership diet.

Congress will improve at the rate of national diet improvement.


The good news is that all three of the leadership dietary components can be improved and balanced through improved friend selection. Your circle of intimate friends should include Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Lincoln, and others.

Contrary to current instruction, good reading must employ Logos, Pathos and Ethos skills. The great reading irony is that we have been taught to do Logos reading but have been systematically stripped of Logos ability. We are naturally good Pathos readers. Ethos reading is nearly entirely neglected.

Besides ancient friends, there are multiple modern friends that have the advantage of synchronicity or sharing a time period.

Because you are reading this, you count the Center for Social Leadership among your friends. We at Summalogica want to be your friend as well. We primarily offer Logos with a side of Pathos and an Ethos appetizer. We grill our Logos rare from the leanest cuts, exclusively from wild stock.

Every aspiring leader should find and submit to formal mentors as well.

Ironman Triathlon training is the athletic equivalent of leadership education.  Like Ironman training, aspiring leaders require coaches (mentors), a proper diet, (quality ethos, logos, and pathos), and many long hours of specific training (service, writing, reading and teaching).

The ability to ennoble, inspire, motivate, and make wise decisions are the inevitable results of such education.


davidgrant-150x175-customDavid B. Grant is the founder of Summa Logica Productions, which promotes formal logic training, particularly among youth, and helps you become a better thinker, reader, and writer. He is the author of Joseph Spider and the Fallacy Farm.

David holds degrees in Philosophy (BA) and Business (MBA) from Brigham Young University. He teaches Entrepreneurship and Operations at Southern Utah University.

He resides in Cedar City, Utah with his wife and five children.


  1. I always get a thrill when someone calls the “Boomer Diet” the ferocious, narcissistic mess that it is. I hope this article is well read, though I dare suppose the self exaltant many who it might most help, are the same who will love it only as rhetorical virtue to be added to their labyrinth of eternal, unapplied reveries.

  2. Sherri Einfeldt says

    I’m a 7th gr. Utah Studies teacher and I have an M.A. in political science. I want to get a Ph.D., and my real loves are constitutional law and American Government/History. I haven’t had much luck, though, in finding doctoral programs with those emphases. So, what I think I hear you saying is a Ph.D. in Leadership Education may be the way to go. What would I realistically do with such a degree?

  3. I’m not sure I said that the right course is formal study in leadership education. So much depends on what you want to do and what gaps you have in getting there. What is your mission?

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