I was watching an interview with a well-known commentator on CNN a few days ago and latched on to something he said that I see over and over again in my work with people in organizations.

When asked why he was thinking of switching his political support to a different party, his answer was something to this effect: (I paraphrased his exact words.)

“None of the current democratic nominees inspire me. I need a leader to make me feel inspired.”

What you and I think of the commentator’s comments or the current presidential candidates is not the point of this post.

What I know for sure working with leaders and organizations over the years is that we miss the boat on the importance of the inspiration factor in the leaders we select.

When we are trying to influence people to action, a fundamental part of a leader’s job, setting an inspirational tone and inspiring others, is a prerequisite.

A big part of inspiring others is understanding, empathizing with, and evoking human emotions. In our attempts in organizations to depersonalize and analyze things rationally and logically, we often neglect the reality of the emotional component in human behavior.

We can take a lesson from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who over 2000 years ago described the importance of inspiration in his teachings on persuasion— “On Rhetoric”.

Aristotle described three components that aid in one’s ability to persuade others:

  1. Ethos: Your own personal credibility, knowledge, image, and character
  1. Logos:   Your ability to make a cohesive, easy to follow, rational, and logical argument backed by solid information (think data, examples, etc.)
  1. Pathos: Your ability to understand the emotions and feelings of others and evoke them to action based on those emotions (The words empathy, sympathy, and apathy are all derived from the word “pathos”)

While Aristotle asserted that any of these components can serve to persuade others to action—my experience is that in many of our organizations we rely more heavily on the Ethos and Logos components and underestimate the power of genuine (not fabricated or contrived) Pathos.

The ability to move away from our own reference points, understand the feelings of and what is important to others, refrain from judgment, and talk to others passionately from that place of understanding is powerful.

So if you want to be more inspirational—here is one tip:

Take a look at how you tend to communicate with and persuade others to action.

Is it primarily based on your title and hierarchical authority? (Ethos)

Is it based on a rational, logical argument? (Logos)

If you are neglecting the Pathos part of persuasion, perhaps it is time to spend more time thinking about what others are feeling.

Feelings and emotions are an integral part of the human experience and as much as some of us like to ignore them, they are there. In all their messiness and complexity—they exist.

Put yourself in the person’s shoes you want to follow you to action. Do you know what he/she is feeling?

And most of all—are you acknowledging that you do in your words?