7 Nov 2022


The Three Pillars of Leadership: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Format: APA

Academic level: Master’s

Paper type: Term Paper

Words: 828

Pages: 3

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Ethos, logos, and pathos play an important role in any leadership. The degree to which a leader can sway people’s opinions or rally them for a certain course depends on these three factors. Ethos refers to the respect of others and possession of a particular quality which qualifies one to speak on a subject. Logos, on the other hand, refers to the ability to present logical reasoning to support an argument or belief. Lastly, pathos refers to the ability to tap into people’s emotions so as to persuade them (Vyas, 2013). This paper seeks to analyze the ethos, logos, and pathos used by MLK in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail . It will also compare a personal style to that of MLK with an aim to strengthen one’s skills of influence and persuasion.

Leadership and Oratory Styles of Martin Luther King 

Martin Luther King Junior is considered one of the greatest leaders and orators in history. This can be attributed to his consistent use of ethos, logos, and pathos in both his speeches and writings. In the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” MLK utilizes these factors to consult a letter that appeals greatly to the audience. One of the ethos in the letter is when he acknowledges the clergy leaders as men of genuine and good will whose criticism is sincere. He also employs ethos when he explains why he would choose to obey some rules and break others. His smart answer to the question is that there are just laws and unjust laws (Luther Jr., 1963).

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The aspects of logos are also used when trying to explain himself and justify points. For instance, when explaining why he was in Birmingham, he presents the facts that he was there because he was invited and because he had organizational ties in the area. He also agrees to the legitimacy of concern raised by the clergy leaders with regard to their willingness to break the law. Another instance where King Jr. uses logos is the explanation of what constitutes a violent campaign. He explains the four basic steps as a collection of facts to determine the presence of injustice, negotiation, self-purification and then lastly purification. King Jr. notes that they had gone through all of them (Luther Jr., 1963).

Pathos, which is the appeal to emotion, was also extensively used in the letter. In explaining the reason he was in Birmingham, he states that it was because there was injustice there. This created an emotional connection with those who might be undergoing suffering. In one of the sentences, he says that we have waited for three hundred and forty years for the rights given by God and the constitution. This is a powerful appeal to emotion owing to the choice of words and the effects it has on people’s emotions (Luther Jr., 1963).

Comparison and Strengthening Skills on Influence and Persuasion 

My style has various differences when to compare to that of Martin Luther King Jr. First, I usually have a hard time when trying to articulate what I am trying to say. I can have a good idea but lack the necessary diction to pass it across. This is unlike king Jr., who in his letter commands a good mastery of delivery. I also tend to lack the ability to communicate in such a way that I can appeal to people emotionally. This stems from my direct style of leadership which does not take all the factors into consideration as King Jr. does.

As a leader, I will need to develop new qualities and skills in the delivery of speeches and writings that are able to sway or make people rally behind me. First, I will need to learn how to get the right words to explain an idea. One way do doing this would be to make sure I consider ethos, pathos, and logos in each delivery. This will foster the experience and confidence to me to deliver to larger audiences. Strengthening the skill with regular practice will ensure it the skill is maintained in the long term.

The building of persuasion requires more that a well thought out presentation. It requires that one makes constant changes and improvements in the society. This would appeal to ethos since people will believe the person is worth to listen to as they discuss a particular topic. Martin Luther was a famous activist at the time when he was arrested. He had been involved in several other protests in search of equality. This gave him some authority to speak about the denial of rights in a way that would appease people.

The comparison and strengthening of my skills on influences and perception will increase my qualities as a good leader. A leader that masters oratory and communication skills is able to get things done by the employees. This can be of importance in a business environment since it would boost productivity and increase respect in the supervisor (Barret, 2006).


In conclusion, ethos, logos, and pathos play a central role in any successful leader. They help him/ her to tap into the emotions of the people, appease them through logic, and ethics. Once a leader has mastered the three factors above; they can be able to give speeches and letters that are just as those by Martin Luther King Jr. Several lessons were also learned which will help me identify and exploit the skills of persecution and influence.


Barrett, D. (2006). Leadership Communication . New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

King Jr., M. L. (1963). Letter from Birmingham Jail. B u.edu. Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/irsd/Ec326_2004/material_2004/Letter%20from %20Birmingham%20Jail.htm.

Vyas, R. (2013). Managing the Dimensions of Ethos, Pathos and Logos of Change through Transformational Leadership. IUP Journal of Soft Skills , 7(3), 7.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). The Three Pillars of Leadership: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos .


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