A tool towards enhancing leadership effectiveness


From all the theories, articles and books written about leadership certainly one idea lays above all others and has not been overthrown: The only test of leadership is the existence of followers. As Joseph Rost (1993) stated, in the fundamentals of effective leadership, lays the productive interaction and the collaborative commitment between the team members i.e the leader and his followers. Therefore, leadership is more about the relationship between committed parties than the leader himself. The act of influencing others and communicating in a successful way can therefore be seen as a critical part of the leader's effectiveness.

The elements of any communicational procedure are five [2] : the transmitter, the message, the language, the situation and the receiver. The leader is usually the transmitter, and the followers the receivers. Message conveys the purpose of communication, it is the content that has to be transfused, language is the means of "carrying", it is the answer to how the message will be send. Now, followers and the situation provide us with the external factors the leader has to take into consideration in order for the message to be conceived in a proper manner. The process of communication has been going on for thousands of years and the human kind has proved inventive enough to develop the right skills and tools to be more effective in its communication efforts, though rhetoric.

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Rhetoric was born in the 5th century BC in Sicily and was afterwards widely spread to the Hellenic and Roman World by sophists. Nowadays the notion of rhetoric is mainly associated with Aristotle and Cicero. Their theories, as Dam L., Hlmgreen L., Strunck J. [3] describe profoundly in their introduction to their book, "are fundamental to the ideas of using rhetorical features to, on the one hand, persuade and convince an audience and, on the other, to become eloquent as a speaker". Rhetoric proves to be a powerful weapon in the political and court arenas and in the same way it can boost a leader's effectiveness producing amazing results, if, as any weapon, is used in the right way.

But how rhetoric in practice helps the leader become more effective? One of the major 6 leader's traits is confidence and sharpness of mind. Rhetoric provides the tools and argumentation techniques for the leader to build his judgment, reasoning and eventually confidence. As an art or a technique it does not only affect the way messages are expressed but the process of thinking as well.

We have identified three major areas where rhetoric proves helpful towards effective leadership: a) vision framing b) the process of organizational change c) teaching and communication.

Conger J. [4] argues in his article how rhetorical techniques can be used to ensure that the message incorporated in an organization's vision will have a profound impact on followers. One of his main arguments is that followers cannot be intrinsically motivated by projected numbers and terms like revenue growth. It is therefore important for the leader to be able to articulate an appealing vision in order to communicate enthusiasm and intrinsically motivate employees towards the achievement of organizational goals. Vision framing fuels employees and provides them with a map of action and with a grander purpose through the use of symbolic language and rhetorical crafting. As a result the leader ensures the commitment and confidence of his subordinates. Steven Jobs for example when he comments to the staff the arrival of his company NEXT [5] he frames the strategic goal of NEXT as revolutionizing the educational system of a country. In his message he uses the technique of drawing from previous success, opposition, repetition, metaphors, emotional language and careful word selection (heart, passion, feel, care) to inspire his employees.

A fundamental idea in organizational settings is also change. Organizations change in numerous ways as the external competitive and socioeconomic framework transforms. The long term sustainability of an organization depends on its ability to grasp the changing conditions and adjust appropriately. The work of the leader is not only to have a wide balcony view but also to be able to align strategically the organization to the environmental changes and communicate what type of change is required at each step to the employees. Marshak R. [6] discusses the different types of metaphors used in different organizational change situations (developmental, transitional, transformational). He comments that all members in an organization must be "in sync" other ways different metaphors lead to wrong interpretations and actions. "Discourse itself becomes action that can either aid or hinder change processes, and paying insufficient attention to organizational discourse also means forgoing the richness that this lens can provide." [7] 

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The use of rhetoric is an effective approach for teaching leadership and enabling the procedure of leader's succession. Storytelling is a rhetorical tool used to provide successors with the necessary knowledge and skills in order to lead successfully the organization to the future. [8] In terms of inside communication in an organization rhetorical tools are employed by the leader in a variety of activities as well: recruitment, socialization, entrepreneurship.

By avoiding mixed messages, enabling people through a visionary language to see, smell and touch the essence of their ideas, by using the right tools such as metaphors, jargon, stories, contrasts, by being able to frame and convince spontaneously by using emotions (pathos), logic (logos) and their personal credibility (ethos) leaders are able to form an effective communication style. We will further try to analyze, from a rhetorical perspective- based on the concepts delivered in Aristotle's rhetoric, a speech given by Steve Jobs to Stanford graduates. The analyzed rhetorical tools provide also our suggestion addressing the issue of how a leader could in practice use rhetoric to increase his/her effectiveness.

Rhetorical analysis of Steve Jobs speech.

In 2005, Steven Jobs gave the commencement speech during the graduation ceremony at Stanford University. By making explicit use of the three main ways of persuasion ethos, pathos and logos he delivers a very effective and successful speech.

According to Aristotle, «σύγκειται μὲν γὰρ ἐκ τριῶν ὁ λόγος, ἔκ τε τοῦ λέγοντος καὶ περὶ οá½- λέγει καὶ πρὸς ὅν καὶ τὸ τέλος πρὸς τοῦτον ἐστιν, λέγω δὲ τὸν ἀκροατήν.» [9] A speech consists of three elements: the one who delivers the speech (orator), what he says (content) and how he says it (composition) to have an emotional appeal to the audience. These main elements correspond to the character of the orator (ethos), the ideas and conceptual framework of the speech (logos) and the sentimental appeal of the speech (pathos).

In this rhetorical analysis we will put under the microscope three main areas: the message (content and composition), the speaker (communication style and delivery) and the relation of the second with the audience.

The structure of the speech is quite simple: Jobs makes an introduction using second plural person addressing to the audience and then uses prosthesis to introduce the three stories of his narratio:

"I want to tell you three stories… The first is about connecting the dots… My second story is about love and loss… My third story is about death…" Aristotle believes that the orator should not recite all the facts together in a string and then draw his inferences from that as this would lead to confusion of the audience. Instead, he proposes exactly what Jobs does: equal distribution of the stories and constructions over the speech with an introduction by way of prosthesis. It is also very important to notice that he places his stories in strict chronological order, intending not to confuse the audience. The use of time adjuncts facilitates the listener locate Jobs chronically in the speech and make the speech more truthfull (17 years later ten years later, when I was 20, about a year ago, during the next five years, and in 10 years, I had just turned 30,for a few months, last year)

Jobs, commences his speech using a common oratory technique, captatio benevolentiae. The purpose of this technique is to capture the audience's benevolence, sympathy and attention and therefore increase its receptiveness to the speech. The common way to succeed this effort, is by displaying modesty and by making compliments for the ethos and or accomplishments of the audience. Jobs flatters the audience "I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world" and declares "I never graduated from college" showing honesty (ethos) and at the same time targeting the sympathy of the audience (pathos). He creates trusting relations with the audience making an identification of the audience to himself. The use of first singular person and second plural allows trust and a sense of belonging to the same group to be created.

But what is the main context of his speech? In order to answer this question we must focus on the situational context the speech is delivered, the event of graduation. Graduation is the epilogue, the end of the student life and the commencement of a new period in one's life, a combination of an end and a new start. This is why Jobs puts at the centre of his speech the theme of birth, death and resurrection. When something dies, something even better is reborn. Behind every story he unwraps, lays the same conceptual framework and this subconsciously becomes an asset for the audience which already knows the basic lines in which each story will develop. The word death is used 6 times in the whole speech; the word life is used 16 times. When the couple of lawyers rejects him because of his genre he experiences the first death - he explicitly refers to death by selecting the verb snuffed out. Jobs is born again when another couple decides to adopt him. In the same way he gives birth to Apple and then dies when he is laid of but experiences rebirth after the acquisition of NEXT by Apple. He uses the word renaissance to signal his rebirth. Eventually, he literally faces death when he is diagnosed with cancer but after the biopsy he knows that an operation can keep him alive. The second thematic axon is the unexpected in life and how each event has to play a specific role in our life but we will only be able to connect the dots in the end of the route. No matter, how many slaps we receive we should continue fighting using our deepest instincts, passions and aspirations because nakedness is our only true possession in life. That is not a possession we could in any way lose or dismiss. Jobs advices through his stories the graduates to remain curios and follow their dreams, everyone can be successful by remaining loyal to his ideas and dreams as he did. As the cycle of life keeps rolling this is the only thing that matters.

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We will now move further to identifying the way Jobs selects to pass all these messages and ideas (logos) to the audience. In other terms we will identify the rhetorical devices used. These rhetorical tools are described in Aristotle's rhetoric as entechnoi pisteis, [10] meaning means of persuasion the orator can construct in contrast to atechnoi pisteis, the means of persuasion that already exist and the orator needs to trace and incorporate to his speech.

Metaphor is extensively used by Jobs. The various implications hidden behind a metaphor contribute to its success as it is a rhetorical tool that targets persuasion through pathos. [11] When associating a common situation everyone has been through, to a specific event the orator manages to transfer and associate sentiments of the common case to his specific case. Metaphor enables, in essence the orator to recreate emotions. Jobs uses a metaphor to show how painful it was to be kicked out from Apple "I had been rejected, but I was still in love". He describes his relations to Apple as a love affair that has end and everyone knows, especially young graduates, how deep it hearts when a relationship like that ends. To intensify the notion of pain he uses another metaphor trying to connect physical to emotional pain. "It was awful tasting medicine but I guess the patient needed it". In other cases to ensure a more vivid experience for the listener he uses a variety of stimulations and associations (images, sounds, intellectual concepts) in a variety of descriptive metaphors:

" the dots will connect down the road"

"follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well -worn path"

"sometimes life will hit you on the head with a brick"

"you are already naked"

"follow your heart".

Furthermore to triggering emotional reactions, metaphors give vividness to the speech, increase retention and stimulate intellectually the audience in order to make the right associations.

Antitheton is another rhetorical instrument employed by Jobs. Antitheton is a juxtaposition of contrasting words accompanied with the use of a common syntax. Some examples are listed below:

"If I had never dropped out / I would have never dropped in."

"You can't connect the dots looking forward /you can connect them looking backward"

"Death is the best invention of life"

The heaviness of being successful/ the lightness of being a beginner"

Anaphora, repetition of the first word of a sentence is commonly used by Jobs in order to enable his audience keep in memory his speech i.e "stay hungry, stay foolish". In other cases he moves a step further using anaphora in combination with a list of three. Three is the minimum number of parallel or common materials, ideas, concepts - according to rhetoric- needed to form a list i.e a sum that creates an essence of repetition and continuity.

"I learned about serif…about space… about what makes typography great." (Parathesis is also used in this phrase while moving from several explicit ideas to the greater concept or from explanations to the general idea.)

Some other examples of anaphora and repetition are:

"It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle"

"all expectations, all pride, all fear"

"Every poster, every label, every drawer"

"it means to try to tell your kids…it means to make sure everything is buttoned up…it means to say your goodbyes"

"don't waste it…don't be trapped by dogma…don't let the noise of others opinions drone out your inner voice"

Paradox is also used to highlight the unexpected in life. In rhetoric paradox is created when two statements are contradictive.

"And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started?"

"Noone wants to die…yet death is the destination we all share"

The vividness of the speech is supplemented by alliteration. Alliteration is the repetition of a vowel or consonant that creates a sound impression.

"No for too many days in a row, I know"

"love and loss"

As far as syntax and general style is concerned we need to make three observations. Firstly, small sentences are used. Main proposals are preferred to secondary proposals and the joint "and" is more frequently used. Listening to a speech is far more difficult than reading a text, therefore a simple syntax is more appropriate towards this end. Our second observation refers to the way syntax is used to exemplify the intellectual content of a sentence. It is very interesting the way Jobs represents conceptual content and ideas through rhetorical tools and syntax i.e He frequently uses paradox to show the unexpected, inappropriate turns and facts of life. Through the syntactic and mental complexity in the abstract referring to what followed his lay off from Apple he transfers the confusion in his life to a syntactic confusion. The passage is full of metaphors. There is no logos. Just pathos.

Our final observation concerns the use of afksisis. In many cases going from one sentence to another, he repeats an idea and also magnifies it.

"I got fired/ I was out/ It was gone/ I was devastated"

Don't lose faith/ Don't settle/ Keep looking"

Referring to his style we conclude that Jobs is friendly and dominant at the same time. He manages to do that by advising and using imperative at the same time as in the phrase above. He appears very inspirational in the whole speech because he exemplifies confidence and determination. The way he delivers the speech is in accordance to the context of the speech. Jobs during the speech is calm, his face and voice remain neutral in order to avoid interfering to the message.

The last division of a speech is the epilogue. The main purposes of the epilogue are to inspire the audience with a favorable opinion towards the orator, exciting emotion for the last time to the audience (affectus), summarize the main ideas of the speech and eventually achieve retention. In his epilogue Jobs identifies himself to the audience as he did in his introduction and summarizes his advises using the phrase

"Stay Hungry. Stay foolish."

The numerous combinations of different rhetoric means in this single phrase is amazing:

scheme hiaston

stay hungry stay foolish and I have always wished that for me

as… I wish that for you stay hungry stay foolish

repetition (he repeats thrice the phrase)

anaphora ( repetition of the initial word stay)

use of imperative

paradox: Advising someone to be hungry or foolish, two words with negative meaning is unexpected,

but the whole phrase is in its essence a metaphor: The word hungry implies the continuous effort to learn and the word foolish implies the creativity needed to be employed in life. Jobs with this word selection implies also that while following your dreams you 'll be considered foolish but you should continue full of hunger going after them.

Jobs by revealing himself to the audience, sharing 3 stories from the heart, draws from the respect of the audience to his face created by the same achievements and accomplishments described in his personal stories and with a humble and authentic style, based on commonly accepted ideas: the circle of life, the nakedness of human in front of death, the thinness of the line between life and death, makes the audience receptive to his advice: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.


". . . we wanted to start a company that had a lot to do with education and in particular, higher education, colleges and universities. So our vision is that there's a revolution in software going on now on coUege and university campuses. And it has to do with providing two types of breakthrough software. One is called simulated learning environments. You can't give a student in biology a five million dollar recombinant DNA laboratory. But you can simulate those things, you can simulate them on a very powerful computer. It is not possible for students to afford these things. It is not possible for most faculty members to afford these

things. So if we can take what we do best, which is to find really great technology and pull it down to a price point that's affordable to people, if we can do the same thing for this type of computer, which is maybe ten times as powerful as a personal computer, that we did for personal computers, then I think we can make a real difference in the way the learning experience happens in the next five years. And that's what we're trying to do. . . . [and] one of my largest wishes is that we build Next from the heart. And the people that are thinking about coming to work for us, or buying our products or who want to sell us things, feel that, that

we're doing this because we have a passion about it. We 're doing this because we really care about the higher educational process, not because we want to make a buck, not because, you know, we just want to do it to do it".


'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.


Figure 1: Means of persuasion: pisteis