Eros was the youngest of the Olympian Greek gods. He had one irresistible skill: with one arrow he could make you love anyone he wished. This made him a popular figure but, naturally, also brought problems. The other gods usually tried – not always successfully - to be rational ‘Logos’ leaders. They saw Eros as wild and unpredictable. So, despite his unique skills, they never considered him sufficiently responsible to play a full part in the ruling Olympian family.
Sound familiar? Many business leaders have a predominantly Eros personality. They’re creative, enthusiastic and good at big-picture thinking and making connections. They love to tell stories and create inspiring visions. As charismatic leaders, they are often admired by their teams. Many entrepreneurs are Eros types, often complementing their flair with a quieter sidekick – a Logos personality, who focuses on the numbers, detailed planning and execution. When there's mutual understanding, trust and respect, this can be a winning combination.
But what about Eros leaders in the corporate world? Managing finance, production, logistics, IT or project delivery requires clear, precise guidelines and procedures, especially in a large, complex company. CEOs have to deliver quarterly results, putting pressure on them to fix problems, drive performance and keep the show on the road. Typically, their closest allies in this are people such as the heads of finance and operations – predominantly Logos types.
But leaders in some areas like research and technology development or marketing tend to be different from their Logos peers. Their focus is more on the future and new, often risky, opportunities in the external environment. Their work seeks to innovate and disrupt the status quo, playing a key role in the future of the company.
These Eros leaders are essential to long-term company success but the differences between them and their Logos colleagues can lead to tensions.
Former McKinsey partner Thomas Barta and I recently looked at how senior marketers, the classic Eros personality, see themselves. 90% described themselves as open and creative and 85% as good at big-picture thinking. Their bosses agree: in a separate 360-degree database we also analysed, CEOs described senior marketers as more strategic and better at finding and exploring new ideas and business opportunities than any of their other direct reports. Eros personalities are valued as an enthusiastic, determined bunch with an outward-looking mindset.
However, our research also shows that marketing leaders aren’t so great at some Logos skills. Only 57% said they were good at aligning goals and targets. Again, their bosses agree. Fewer than half (48%) of CEOs said their senior marketers' behaviour was 'appropriate to a situation' – again the lowest score among all their direct reports. Well, Eros didn't always behave appropriately either. In fact, he rather relished it when his actions wreaked havoc.
Eros leaders need to find ways to connect better with their predominantly Logos bosses and peers. That means developing a range of broader business and leadership skills to complement their increasingly complex and fast-changing technical skills.
Becoming an effective Eros leader in a Logos world starts with ensuring that you're working on issues that the CEO sees as important. Put a price tag on your work so people see why what you’re doing matters. Being seen as an effective investor will help your standing at the top and, ultimately, make more resources available to you.
Walk the halls to understand and engage with your Logos colleagues on their own issues - but also, use your talents as an Eros leader to capture their hearts as well as their minds. As Napoleon said, ‘a leader is a dealer in hope.’ You should aim to understand and inspire your boss and your colleagues as well as your team.
Where are you on the Eros-Logos scale?
Here's a simple Eros-Logos self-assessment test. Do it now. Don’t think too hard – just quickly tick what feels right. Then add up how many Eros and Logos words you've ticked to get a quick sense of roughly where you are on the spectrum.
Which describes your nature better?
O Connecting people
O Ambiguity is OK
O Structuring issues
O Clarity is key
Are you more Eros or Logos?
Patrick Barwise is emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School and co-author, with Thomas Barta, of The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader: How to Succeed by Building Customer and Company Value, McGraw-Hill