4 Ways for Leaders to Embody Empathy

4 Ways for Leaders to Embody Empathy


The essential trait makes all the difference in a crisis, but what defining the actions that make audiences feel seen and heard can be nebulous.

Donovan Roche, VP, Havas Trust

Renowned philosopher Plato once said, “The highest form of knowledge is empathy. For it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” In other words, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

This is a very important trait for business leaders to exhibit, but it’s particularly critical during a crisis. And, ironically, this might be the most difficult time for them to do so.

When a crisis strikes, it often puts leadership on the defensive, causing them to think more about the impact bad news will have on their business or even themselves. When you’re trying to put out a fire, it can be tough to think about the other guy. But that’s exactly what leaders must do: Think like a fireman entering a burning building. They aren’t thinking about how the fire might harm them, but of all the innocent people trapped in that building.

Development Dimensions International (DDI), a global leadership consulting firm, determined that empathy is the single most important leadership skill. And, when culture management firm Partners in Leadership asked 300 leaders the question, “What belief do you want held about you after COVID-19 passes?” more than 60% suggested they wanted to be viewed as empathetic.

Easier said than done.

Continue reading here…

Projecting Leadership Presence in a Teleconference


Projecting Leadership Presence in a Teleconference


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

In a famous 2002 experiment, a Stanford University professor made audiotapes of physicians and their patients in session. Half of the doctors had been previously brought to court for malpractice. She then played the tapes for her students, who were able to determine which physicians had been sued.

But here’s the catch: The recordings were “content-filtered.” All the students could hear was a low-frequency garble. But based on the intonation alone, they could distinguish one group from the other. The doctors who had been sued had a dominant, hostile, less empathetic style, whereas the other group sounded warmer.

I use this example when I coach business professionals to remind them that whenever they are speaking to an audience (whether customers or colleagues), people won’t only be evaluating their words, they will be “reading” their voices. Listeners will be searching for clues to possible hidden agendas, concealed meanings, disguised emotions, undue stress – anything, in short, that will help them determine if they can rely on what they’re being told.

The voice conveys subtle but powerful clues into feelings and meanings. Think, for example, how tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, concern, or confidence. Or how an increase in volume and intensity grabs attention because of the heightened emotion (passion, anger, assertiveness, certainty) it signals.

The effect of paralinguistic communication is so potent that it can make bad news actually sound palatable or, conversely, take all the joy out of a positive message. I’ve seen managers give unflattering feedback while still exhibiting warm feelings through their tone of voice – and those who were being critiqued still felt positively about the overall interaction. I’ve also seen managers offer words of praise and appreciation in such a flat tone of voice that none of the recipients felt genuinely acknowledged or appreciated.

Blame it on the limbic brain, where emotions are processed. It also plays the primary role in processing vocal cues. Researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that they could tell whether a subject had just heard words spoken in anger, joy, relief, or sadness by observing the pattern of activity in the listener’s brain.

Paralinguistics are important in any conversation, but they are most crucial when your communication is limited to an auditory channel — as it is on any phone call. Here are six tips to keep in mind to exhibit leadership presence in your next teleconference:

First Tip – Breathe Before You Begin

Look straight ahead with your chin level to the floor and relax your throat. Take several deep “belly” breaths. Count slowly to six as you inhale and expand your abdomen, then count to six again as you exhale. This simple exercise will help you sound focused and in control.

Second Tip – Modulate Your Voice

Vary your vocal range and tone – avoiding a monotone delivery that sounds as if you are bored. Remember to enunciate and speak clearly. Vary your volume, but always make sure you are speaking loudly enough to be heard. And here’s a tip I learned from a speech therapist: Before you start talking, let your voice relax into its optimal pitch by keeping your lips together and making the sounds “um hum, um hum, um hum.”

Third Tip – Stay Focused

Focus your eyes and attention on one place. If you shuffle papers, check email or let your gaze wander around the room, it detracts from your concentration, and that distraction shows in your voice.

Fourth Tip – Stand

Stand, if possible, when you want to convey greater confidence. Standing, or even pacing, will give your voice more energy and conviction.

Fifth Tip – Smile

Smile while you are talking – doing so will transmit energy and enthusiasm. If your voice sounds inviting, it will draw people in. And, as my husband (whose was an actor and voiceover professional) reminds me, a key voiceover technique is being able to speak “with a smile in your voice.”

Sixth Tip – Match your listeners

One of the most intriguing aspects of vocal behavior is speech convergence – the way people adopt the speech patterns and voice qualities of those with whom they admire and want to be like. Speech convergence can also be used as a technique to help people understand your message. The more adept you are at altering your speed, volume and tone to match that of the group you are addressing, the better they will hear and accept what you have to say.

You may never be sued for the sound of your voice. But then again, I haven’t heard you speak.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/

Four Ways Arts Education Creates Future Leaders

Four Ways Arts Education Creates Future Leaders


Neve Spicer, Chief Editor,WeTheParents.org

While we often think of science, tech, and engineering classes as some of the most educationally significant in terms of skill-building, opportunities for personal growth don’t stop there — in fact, research has demonstrated that the time our children spend studying the arts can be just as relevant to their future skill sets.

Sponsored by Americans for the Arts, National Arts in Education Week, which takes place this September 12th-18th, aims to educate parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, and students on the diverse benefits of arts education. A well-rounded education that includes focus on the arts can help our kids to discover their talents, engage with new perspectives, and gain important leadership skills that will make them more effective in both the classroom and the workplace.

Some of these skills include:

  • Improved self-esteem: Being an effective leader begins with believing in yourself, and participation in art classes is linked with helping kids do just that. Studying art skills in a classroom environment is associated with boosts to confidence and self-esteem. (source)
  • Increased creativity: Tough problems often require creative solutions — this demands leadership that can think outside the box in order to get things done effectively without relying on dated or ineffective paradigms. Instrumental training, art education, and dance are all linked to enhanced creative skill. (source)
  • Ability to collaborate effectively: A leader who can’t effectively collaborate with their team is a leader who is not fit for their position; the ability to cooperate with others, value their ideas, and take their criticisms is essential. Participation in art classes has been shown to help children collaborate with others more effectively. (source)
  • Use of accountability: It’s difficult to take someone seriously when they won’t own up to their mistakes — this is doubly true when the person shirking responsibility is supposed to be in charge. Good leaders are accountable when they make mistakes, which is a skill children gain through arts education. (source)



To learn more about National Arts in Education Week, visit Americans for the Arts online.

Four Counterintuitive Behaviors of the Most Successful Thought Leaders

Mark DiMassimo, Founder and Chief Creative for DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo)

Successful thought leadership takes more than just thinking. It requires thinking differently.

If you’re thinking the same, you’re following. And, if you aren’t thinking differently, you are blending in. In other words, disappearing.

Invisible matter may dominate the universe, but the invisibles have played no role in the history of leadership. So, how do you stand up — and out — amid the current noise? We have studied the most influential thought leaders and, while you can read endless posts and listen to years of podcasts about what they do, what distinguishes the most successful thought leaders are the things they do not do.

Following are four principles to plot your own distinctive and leader-carved path:

Leaders don’t follow their customers.

Google wasn’t founded because people were dissatisfied with Yahoo and Netscape. Jeff Bezos didn’t launch Amazon because people were frustrated with bookstores and libraries, nor did he expand beyond books because customers were asking for it. If Amazon had asked customers what they wanted from Amazon, the company would still be a bookstore.

Similarly, understanding what your audience is searching for through a search-engine optimization (SEO) strategy is necessary, but not sufficient, in driving successful thought leadership. It can help you address your audience’s concepts and language, but it won’t make you captivating. And, it certainly won’t ensure you add value to the bottomless content that is already available online. To achieve this, you must develop a strong point-of-view, unique theme, beat, and messaging architecture; in short, your personal brand. Embrace the opportunity to challenge your audience instead of being popular, providing them with genuine and unparalleled value.

Leaders don’t follow their competitors. 

At the height of the PC boom, there were thousands of PC companies. If Apple had studied IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell for best practices, there would be no Apple. Instead, Apple pursued a vision that was at-odds with the overall industry’s most-tech-for-the-buck ethos. Instead, Apple set out to create stunning consumer products, and that difference made all the difference.

“Best practices” are a pitfall, not a cure-all. Again, the most valuable work in marketing — as well as thought leadership in marketing — is “different.” If you chase the competition, you will never catch them. You cannot be afraid to fall short on some measures in order to be thrillingly different. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which quickly became one of the most iconic children’s television series in history, was nothing like any previous TV entertainment for kids. What do people remember today? Be purposely different, and wear earned criticism as a badge of excellence.

Leaders aren’t different just for the sake of it.

To survive as your industry develops, focus on differences – as well as distinctiveness. Ben & Jerry’s in ice cream. Apple in technology. Zappos in e-commerce. Anything that is highly successful will be copied, so build something that cannot be easily replicated.

For a season, Seth Godin wrote beyond his marketing core. Soon enough, he came back with This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See, and Godin followed it up with other marketing books. His excellent writing, packaging, and publishing weren’t enough to ensure the same level of popularity beyond the subject he dominates. As a savvy marketer, he recognized that.

Leaders don’t follow technology.

Instead of following the latest tech, anticipate it. New business models are being created inside apps. People and companies are using app experiences to change industries and lives, enabling personalized experiences like never before. Wellness brands like WW (formerly Weight Watchers) deliver personalized, social, and inspiring experiences through innovative apps that offer meaningful and engaging experiences.

Most people want to keep getting better at the things they know. Innovators try the new thing, emerging technology, the platform that’s still in beta. What’s the chance you will create the most read blog in the world, or even in your own industry? You are more likely to win the lottery. On the other hand, what if you were one of the first in your industry on a new platform? New platforms make new stars. Experiment with new ways of getting your message across. Be the leader in “thought leadership” by betting on yourself.

About the Author: Mark DiMassimo is founder and Chief Creative for DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo), the industry-leading brand, advertising, and design agency in positive behavior-change marketing. Brand clients include WW (formerly Weight Watchers), SodaStream, Samsung, Echelon, Pfizer, and CVS Health, among many others across various industries. DiGo drives growth for life-changing brands by helping consumers make inspiring decisions and form empowering habits.

Leadership Is More About What You Relinquish Than What You Hold Tight

Bessie Kokalis Pescio, Vice President, Global Internal Communications at Philip Morris International

There’s a lot of talk right now about the caliber of leadership required to guide employees through the debris left by a global pandemic. With the workplace in a chapter of rapid change, and many employees still working remotely while others return to the physical office, the characteristics that will unify today’s great leaders are fairness, resilience, and self-awareness. Effective leaders are direct when they need to be. They take risks and know how to build a team.  Above all, they are humble, empathetic, reflective. 

On this last point, I’ll admit there may be some incongruity in what’s been expected from men and women leaders in the past. Societal norms have led many of us to believe that women need to be, first and foremost, nice, and that when we’re in positions of power, we must take pains not to be perceived as emotional or weak. 

The pandemic has invited both men and women leaders to demonstrate what may once have been considered feminine traits, such as warmth, grace, and kindness. Women no longer need to act like men to survive in the business world. Women should just be the leaders we are. Rather than talking about what it takes for a man or a woman to succeed, the conversation we should be having is about the behaviors we all need to adopt to succeed in a leadership position. Period. 

What I’ve learned is that, in many cases, great leadership is really as simple as trusting your people to do their work. Empowerment is a nice buzzword to throw around these days, but not many people really know that to truly empower your employees—versus simply delegating things to them—make them directly accountable for something. When people feel like they own something, they begin to contribute meaningfully to a greater goal.

I had an experience many years ago with a leader that I think is a perfect example of this. A controversy broke out about one of our R&D facilities and employee morale was taking a hit. I’ll never forget what my boss said when I brought the situation to his attention. Without missing a beat, he turned to me and said, with the right tone and intensity, “Okay, what are you going to do about it?” 

This was one of the most vivid moments of empowerment in my career. He could have said, “This is what we’re going to/what we should do/who we should call.” Instead, he felt gave me an opportunity to lead through a crisis. By putting the onus on me, it created trust and helped me grow. Because depending upon where a person is in their career, they are either are up for a challenge like that or they’re not. Until you give your employees opportunities for growth, you’ll never know what they’re capable of. 

Empowerment also means picking and choosing when to step in and say, “Okay, we’re going to fix this together,” and then leading a team member through that. It’s about doing this in such a way that they can learn to find answers themselves. Teach them to self-correct. This builds confidence both ways—between leader and team member. 

Finally, great leaders have clarity in common. All the more difficult to come by now that we’re so digitally connected, clarity requires time to decompress. Do this by getting your yoga or kickboxing in or taking a run. Whatever works for you; it doesn’t have to be about movement. Rather, it could be about stillness. It could be finding 15 minutes a day to meditate or to have a cup of coffee while you sit and think about the world around you. Be unapologetically selfish about it. 

Empowering yourself in these ways will also empower those around you, and empowered people make for great leaders. 

About the Author: Bessie heads up PMI’s global internal communications team at Philip Morris International (PMI) based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her focus is to engage the 77,000 employees across the organization as PMI transitions its business toward better alternatives for adult smokers on the road to delivering a smoke-free future. In her 15-year career with the company, she’s worked in multiple functions including research & development, sales, commercial planning, and communications. Before joining PMI, she worked as a healthcare consultant and as a linguist. She studied French literature and political science and holds an MBA. She’s an avid runner, practices yoga regularly, and is currently reading about Renaissance art and working on her Italian.

Hispanic PR Leaders Share Vision of a Multicultural Communications Future


The members of HPRA look to highlight Hispanic heritage in the communications industry as the industry organization launches its 2021 ¡BRAVO! Awards.

Ted Kitterman

The Hispanic Public Relations Association, a partner with Communications Week, is once again looking to highlight the contributions of Hispanic communicators after its awards programs went on hiatus during COVID-19.

The 2021 HPRA National ¡BRAVO! Awards will highlight the best of the best, and we wanted to hear from some members of the Hispanic community about how their heritage has influenced their comms careers and how they see the future of the industry.

Sonia Diaz, HPRA national president & senior vice president with Balsera Communications and Carla Santiago, GM for Edelman Miami, both former recipients of a ¡BRAVO! Award in past years, shared some of their takeaways with us via email.

Sonia Diaz

PR Daily: What’s the most important lesson you have learned in your career as a PR pro?

Diaz: No amount of technology will ever replace the value of forming true and meaningful relationships with clients, media, partners or colleagues.

Santiago: Always treat people with respect—and treat yourself as a brand.

Continue reading here…

3 Common Obstacles That Impede a Leader’s Velocity

Ron Karr, Author

New York Yankee catcher and philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” In the quest to become a great leader, you’ve probably found yourself “someplace else” often enough. I know I have. It’s easy to lose track of our original objective or be reluctant to set an audacious goal in the first place. Our natural, human tendencies and habits draw us into situations where we have plenty of speed but no direction, which is only a recipe for burnout.

Thankfully, there are ways for ordinary humans to recognize these symptoms and regain the right combination of speed with direction (velocity) and alignment with one’s ultimate objective. By doing so, we learn how to become even better leaders, no matter what our job title or official position.

So, here are three examples of obstacles that too often block our path to successful leadership—and what we can do to overcome them and achieve greater velocity.

Not Realizing the Objectives of a New Position

We are creatures of habit. We all tend to repeat actions that brought us success or reward in the past. The problem is, when our job responsibilities change, we don’t always alter our behavior. A classic example happens in sales. A top performing sales rep gets results by going the extra mile with every customer—doing whatever it takes to close the sale and ensure repeat business. Being the sales hero is satisfying—both financially and emotionally.

The problem happens when that same rep is promoted to management. They are no longer the star player but the coach; the objective is different. Success for a sales rep is based on their individual efforts. For a manager, it’s based on the combined productivity of all team members. The manager’s job is to make every individual team member insanely successful.

But if the former sales star doesn’t realize the new objective, they can remain in “firefighter” mode, micromanaging team members and even taking over at critical sales moments. Being the star feels good emotionally, but not acting like a coach results in poor team performance. Micromanaged sales reps often experience stress, demotivation, or both.

Rather than continuing to do their old job, a true leader needs to PAUSE and ask, “What is my job? How is my objective different now than what it was?” A leader should always ask what success means—not just for them but for those they lead. With that end in mind, they can measure team members’ performance and find new ways for them to achieve the best outcome. 

Telling Yourself Limiting Stories

We all tell ourselves stories—the inner narratives we use to process the world around us. When they’re positive, that’s great. But when the stories are negative, they’ll hold you back, add stress, and prevent you from achieving or even attempting an ideal outcome. Even with a track record of success, we often experience Imposter Syndrome—the feeling that we somehow don’t deserve success. We may not even be aware of our limiting self-talk, especially when it comes from a past difficulty or trauma. Without even realizing it, we’re letting our view of the past limit our ability to lead in the present.

It often starts with us interpreting what we think other people mean. As those negative stories accumulate, they create drag and resistance, allowing past experiences to color the future and preventing us from attaining velocity.

The leadership solution is not to ignore or stuff those limiting thoughts back down, but to PAUSE and ask, “What’s the story I’m telling myself? Am I letting some past narrative or assumption tell me what I can or cannot do?” If the answer is yes, then remember that only you can re-write the story for yourself. True leaders never have all the answers up front. But they do have the power to change what the story means, take responsibility for the present, and create a mindset that is outward-focused, not self-focused.

Pursuing Tasks Without Purpose

Most of us can identify with the saying, “Too busy mopping the floor to turn off the faucet.” We even pride ourselves on the fact that we’re busy all the time. It feels good to accomplish something on our to-do list, so we’re emotionally primed to be task-oriented—even when the tasks do not have a connection with a meaningful outcome or purpose. To put the problem in terms of sales, we focus on the “how” part of the equation—the features of a product or service—without thinking about the “what” part, namely the objective or need that the product or service fulfills.

Being a leader in these situations means we must continuously ask the important questions about the tasks we and our team are doing:

  • “Is the vision itself still valid?” As the COVID pandemic proved, what was once an ideal outcome may have changed entirely. Altering course is always an option.
  • “Are the present tasks the right ones?” It’s easy to let “urgent but not important” tasks creep into the mix. Always PAUSE and prioritize.
  • “Are we executing these tasks in the best way possible?” A true leader must be open to new ways of doing things that meet the ideal objective.

Aligning tasks to meet a clear objective is never a one-and-done process. Things can change overnight, and human nature often is at odds with the need to change our habits. But there is hope. Exceptional leaders learn how to cope with unexpected change, stay on top of their team’s goals, issues, and roadblocks, and above all maintain a velocity mindset.

About the Author: Ron Karr is a leading sales leadership expert and author of The Velocity Mindset® (Amplify Publishing, May 2021). Learn more about how you can lead your sales team with a velocity mindset at VelocityMindset.com.

The Velocity Mindset: How Leaders Eliminate Resistance, Gain Buy-in, and Achieve Better Results—Faster

CommPRO Editorial Staff

What would the world be like if everyone acted like a  leader and not a victim of circumstance? And everyone knows what qualities define a good  leader, but how many of us know the steps to become a great leader? Sales and leadership  expert and speaker Ron Karr answers these questions and more in The Velocity Mindset: How Leaders Eliminate Resistance, Gain Buy-in, and Achieve Better Results—Faster (Amplify  Publishing; May 11, 2021). 

A follow-up to the critically acclaimed Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way (Wiley, 2009) and an  Amazon bestseller, The Velocity Mindset outlines Karr’s secret formula for success: a  balance of speed and direction, both of which must remain in alignment. Karr calls this the  Velocity Mindset®—a modern methodology for personal and professional achievement that he has shared with organizations across six continents. 

Whether you are in the entry-level stage of your career, a seasoned manager, or just  looking to make a personal change, The Velocity Mindset provides the tools needed for  success and demonstrates how taking time to PAUSE and visualize a desired outcome can propel you forward and positively influence those around you. 

Deemed “an extraordinary roadmap for leadership with a fresh, practical, and motivational  perspective” by New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer, the book draws upon Karr’s  thirty-plus years of experience and personal anecdotes in order to create an “easy-to-read,  relatable, and instructive guide for those professionals looking to hone their leadership  skills” (Julie Roehm, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at Party City). 

With the help of a widely recognized leading sales and business development expert, learn  strategies to eliminate resistance, gain buy-in, and achieve better results—faster. This book  is for anybody looking to achieve greater success in their career and life. The Velocity Mindset is on sale now.

Women Leaders on the Rise Leadership Program Addresses Research Showing Women Get Stuck at Bottom of Career Ladder

Leslie Grossman

Men outnumber women nearly 2 to 1 in reaching the first rung of the corporate ladder according to research in the fifth annual Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey & Co and Lean In. The study also states that women are not held back by either lack of ambition, or a desire to start a family, but by the fact that most employers are not cultivating female managers early in their careers at the same rate as men.

To address this problem, the Women Leaders on the Rise leadership program is being launched in July at The George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. The program will train young women in the workplace with leadership skills, as well as tools to address the obstacles they face while trying to climb the first rung of the corporate management ladder.

The Women Leaders on the Rise program will focus on practice areas that are most necessary for moving into management including (1) creating a vision for one’s career, (2) building influential relationships and networks, (3) effective communication skills, (4) executive presence, (5) cultivating a growth mindset, (6) building confidence, and (7) becoming resilient.



Program participants meet for two days from 9 am to 5 pm (ET) on July 21st and  22nd on Zoom.  The program includes live discussions, break-outs and networking, facilitated by GWU-CEPL Senior Fellow and Faculty Director Leslie Grossman, who is also author of the book “Link Out” (Wiley).  Participants have the option to implement their learning alongside their peers in an interactive Mastermind Group facilitated by Grossman, which meets 90 minutes monthly for 6 months following the completion of the program.

For more information or to register for Women Leaders on the Rise visit the website – https://cepl.cps.gwu.edu/women-leaders-rise 

or contact Leslie Grossman at lesliegrossman@gwu.edu or Kateryna Pyatybratova at pkate@gwu.edu.       

We All Need Leadership Presence

Ronn Torossian On How to Lead Team Through Change

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

You are talented, skilled, and highly competent, with positive business results that have been responsible for your career progress to this point. What more could you possibly need?

At a certain level, the force that will catapult you to more senior positions of leadership may have less to do with the abilities that got you this far, and more to do with the impression you make. You may be knowledgeable, skilled, and innovative, but that doesn’t guarantee that others see you as the talented leader you authentically are.

The good news is that managing this impression doesn’t require you to fake or exaggerate. The goal of leadership presence is to align people’s impression of you with your authentic best self. It’s the art of better expressing those qualities you already possess. (BTW: As a speaker, author and leadership presence coach, I would be highly ineffective at helping people pretend to be something they’re not — but I am very good at helping people discover and project their genuine talents and potential.)

So let me ask you a question: How skilled are you at expressing your authentic Credibility, Confidence, Composure, Connection, and Charisma?

Credibility: Regardless of how credible you are, your communication style can strengthen or weaken people’s perception of your credibility. Attention spans are so short today that you have to be able to make your point in a way that’s both compelling and brief — and eliminate words (kind of, sort of, maybe, um, er, uh) and phrases like “This may be a bad idea, but . . .” or “You probably already thought of this, but . . .” which reduce the positive impact of whatever statement follows.

Confidence: When it comes to looking confident, your body language plays a major part in how people perceive you. To appear as your confident best, remember to stand and sit with good posture — shoulders squared, head straight, arms slightly away from your torso, feet flat on the floor if seated and about shoulder-width apart if standing. Posture is especially important in a virtual environment where your body language makes an instantaneous statement about your authority and personal power. A side benefit is that good posture not only makes you appear more confident, it also makes you feel more grounded and self-assured.

Composure: You may be presented with unwanted interruptions, tough questions, or personal attacks — and all these can be challenging situations for even the most senior leaders. To retain your composure, don’t be blindsided. Anticipate what is likely to occur and prepare to respond appropriately. And when you encounter a situation you’d hadn’t prepared for, remember to stop and take a slow breath before responding. By staying poised under pressure, you appear reliable, capable, and in control — all qualities that people look for in a leader.

Connection: Your ability to connect with others has everything to do with how you make people feel. The goal of leadership today is to get others to willingly engage and collaborate, and that means creating work environments where people feel safe and valued. As one Silicon Valley CEO told me: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with command and control leadership. It’s simply irrelevant in the 21st century.” That’s why your ability to show empathy and make genuine connections is such a powerful element in projecting leadership presence.

Charisma: The fact is you already have charismatic qualities that are waiting to be revealed in order to showcase your unique character and talents. Strengthening your personal brand of charisma begins with embracing and expressing your core values and by appreciating and being grateful for all that you have to offer to your organization and the world.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/

A Conversation with Professor Michael Gerhardt, Author of “Lincoln’s Mentors: The Education of a Leader”

There can be no question but that Abraham Lincoln embodies the best of what America can be and thus his wisdom endures.

Join me and Professor Michael Gerhardt as we explore how Lincoln became Lincoln and what he can still teach us on this 156th anniversary of his assassination.


Professor Michael J. Gerhardt, Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law

Michael Gerhardt joined the Carolina Law faculty in 2005 and serves as the Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence. His teaching and research focuses on constitutional conflicts between presidents and Congress. Gerhardt is the author of seven books, including “Lincoln’s Mentors” (Harper Collins, 2021), and leading treatises on impeachment, appointments, presidential power, Supreme Court precedent, and separation of powers. He has written more than a hundred law review articles and dozens of op eds in the nation’s leading news publications, including SCOTUSblog, The New York Times, and Washington Post. His book, The Forgotten Presidents (Oxford University Press 2013), was named by The Financial Times as one of the best non-fiction books of 2013. He was inducted into the American Law Institute in 2016. Gerhardt attended the University of Chicago Law School, where he graduated order of the coif and served as a research assistant to both Phil Kurland and Cass Sunstein and as one of the two student editors of The Supreme Court Review. After law school, he clerked for Chief District Judge Robert McRae of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Tennessee and Judge Gilbert Merritt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served as Deputy Media Director of Al Gore’s first Senate campaign, practiced law for three years for two boutique litigation firms in Washington and Atlanta, and taught for more than a decade at William & Mary Law School before joining Carolina Law.

Gerhardt’s extensive public service has included his testifying more than 20 times before Congress, including as the only joint witness in the Clinton impeachment proceedings in the House; speaking behind closed doors to the entire House of Representatives about the history of impeachment in 1998; serving as special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee for seven of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices; and as one of four constitutional scholars called by the House Judiciary Committee during President Trump’s impeachment proceedings. During the Clinton and Trump impeachment proceedings, Gerhardt served as an impeachment expert for CNN. In 2015, he became the first legal scholar to be asked by the Library of Congress to serve as its principal adviser in revising the official United States Constitution Annotated. In 2019, the Order of the Coif named Gerhardt as its Distinguished Visitor for 2020, an award given to only one law professor each year for outstanding legal scholarship.


Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator.

He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings. 

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelZeldin




Edelman Announces Major Leadership Changes: Promotes Russell Dubner & Lisa Osborne Ross

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Edelman has named Russell Dubner global vice chairman and chair of the Edelman Trust Institute and Lisa Osborne Ross CEO of Edelman’s U.S. operation.

In a new role for the firm, Dubner will lead three key planks of the firm’s global agenda: corporate development, encompassing M&A and venture investments, alliances and partnerships, and the newly formed Edelman Trust Institute. He will report to Richard Edelman, Edelman CEO. Dubner will chair the firm’s Global Investment and Innovation Committees, continue to lead DJE Holdings’ sector-specialist agencies, Revere, Salutem, Edifi and Edible, and retain a portfolio of key client relationships.

“Edelman’s post-Covid agenda will be marked by reinvention, focused investment and bold entrepreneurialism. This is the perfect moment to elevate Russell’s talents as an innovator, leader and natural investor,” said Edelman. “Russell will play a pivotal role in this transformative chapter for the firm as we leapfrog forward in data and analytics and advance trust as a key lever for businesses, brands and leaders.”

Dubner also will launch and oversee Edelman’s Trust Institute, a center for the study of trust and a learning laboratory for trust building between companies, institutions, brands and people. In this capacity, Dubner will oversee the evolution of Edelman’s suite of trust advisory and data service offerings.

“Edelman is poised to take an assertive and disruptive stance,” said Dubner. “We are on the move, and we will fuel our momentum with acquisitions, inventive partnerships, investments in talent and technology. I am hugely energized by the opportunity to redefine what it means to be a global communications agency and fully embrace our leadership mantle in trust.”

Dubner, who served as U.S. President and CEO for the past six years, has long been at the forefront of agency-shaping moves. He pushed the U.S. business into both advisory services for the C-suite and integrated marketing work for brands. Dubner directed moves into CommsTech, influencer marketing, performance and business marketing, as well as a reformulation of Edelman Financial. Under his tenure, Edelman was recognized by the Ad Age A-list for Creativity in 2019.

Dubner serves on the board of directors of SprintRay and The Center for an Urban Future. He is a member of YPO’s Gotham Chapter, a founding member of PTTOW, GenNext and on the advisory committee of CEO Action for Racial Equity.

Lisa Osborne Ross Named U.S. CEO of Edelman

Ross, who is currently U.S. COO, will succeed Dubner as the U.S. CEO, overseeing the firm’s largest region comprised of 2,360 people in 13 offices. She will report to Global President and COO Matthew Harrington. She was named PRWeek’s Agency Professional of the Year last month and was inducted into the publication’s Hall of Femme in 2020.

“In the four years since Lisa joined Edelman, she has made an incredible impact on the firm, particularly through her empathetic leadership during Covid and the tragic aftermath of George Floyd’s murder,” said Harrington. “She is a champion of our people, and expansive in her ability to provide senior counsel to clients and drive operations. Lisa is an exemplary leader for extraordinary times, and her many talents will take the U.S. business forward from a position of strength.”

As COO of the U.S., Ross led Edelman’s Covid Task Force and was a highly sought-after client counselor and speaker regarding high-performance workplaces and operating through Covid. Ross was instrumental in establishing Edelman’s Racial Justice Task Force after George Floyd’s murder last May. The Task Force has since counseled more than 400 clients on DEI and multicultural outreach engagements that are helping to dismantle systemic racism and drive equity. She also helped develop several Edelman Trust Barometer special reports on the role brands must play in combatting racial injustice in America. Ross has been a leading voice in public affairs within the agency, continued to specialize in issues management, and has become a favored counsel to the C-suite.

“The complexity of issues at this time in our world requires a diverse, thoughtful, culturally competent team to deliver counsel. That is what I’ve found at Edelman and what I hope to drive more of as CEO,” said Ross. “Edelman’s belief that it can create movements that impact the world is what inspires me and draws me to this position. The opportunity to lead with that belief is the culmination of what has been a really fortunate and blessed career for me.”

An industry, government and White House veteran, Ross joined Edelman as president of the D.C. office. In that role she helped advance Edelman’s prominence in public affairs, crisis, brand, digital and multicultural.

In 2019, she was named one of the Most Influential Women in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine. Ross was also an honoree for Washington Women Who Mean Business (2018) and a Diversity Champion by the PR Council (2017). She co-founded and led the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund grassroots organizations addressing the critical needs of women and young girls through essential services and training throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Ross serves on numerous boards, including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Meridian International Center and PRSA Foundation. She is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

How to Become a More Collaborative Leader


Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

Lately I have had so many speaking engagements on “Leadership Presence” that I relish the chance to change course and to update my program on “Collaborative Leadership” for a client next month.

For many organizations, “silo mentality” and knowledge hoarding behaviors are wasting the kind of collective brainpower that could lead to the discovery of a revolutionary new process or product or, in the current economic climate, be the key to keeping their company afloat when others are sinking!

And it’s not just corporate profits that suffer when collaboration is low: the workforce loses something too. Individuals lose the opportunity to work in the kind of inclusive environment that energizes teams, releases creativity and makes working together both productive and joyful.

Here are a few points that I will be covering in that upcoming virtual session to help participants build their collaborative leadership skills:

Realize that silos can kill your business. Silo mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture. Silo is a business term that has been passed around and discussed in many boardrooms over the last 40 years. Unlike many other trendy management terms this is one issue that has not disappeared. Silos are seen as a growing pain for organizations of all sizes. Wherever it’s found, a silo mentality becomes synonymous with power struggles, lack of cooperation, and loss of productivity.

Build your collaboration strategy around the “human element.” In trying to capture and communicate the cumulative wisdom of a workforce, the public and private sectors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in portals, software, intranets, and other collaborative platforms. But collaboration is more than the technology that supports it, and even more than a business strategy aimed at optimizing a organization’s experience and expertise. Collaboration is, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behavior of people throughout an organization. Successful collaboration is a human issue.

Make visioning a collaborative process. In my seminars, speeches, and coaching I’ve worked with thousands of talented leaders around the world, and one thing I know for sure: Regardless of how creative, smart and technically savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t successfully lead an organization, a department or a team without the brain power and commitment of others.

Today’s most influential leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision. These leaders adopt and communicate a vision of the future that impels people beyond the boundaries and limits of the past. But if the future vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective motivator for the workforce. The power of a vision comes truly into play only when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.

Utilize the power of diversity. Experiments at the University of Michigan found that, when challenged with a difficult problem, groups composed of highly adept members performed worse than groups whose members had varying levels of skill and knowledge. The reason for this seemingly odd outcome has to do with the power of diverse thinking. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.

Help people develop trusting relationships. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability and integrity of another party. It is also the glue that holds together any group. Since the outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon trusting relationships among participants, not allowing time for this to develop can be a costly mistake. But all too often, in the rush to get started on a project, team leaders put people together and tell them to “get to work.” You’ll get better results if your give your group time (upfront) to get to know one another, to develop a common understanding about the project, to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to build personal ties.

Watch your body language. To show that you are receptive to other people’s ideas, uncross your arms and legs. Place your feet flat on the floor and use open palm gestures (which is a body language display inviting others into the conversation). If you want people to give you their ideas, don’t multi-task while they do. Avoid the temptation to check your text messages, check your watch, or check out how the other participants are reacting. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. Leaning forward is another nonverbal way to show you’re engaged and paying attention, as is head tilting. (The head tilt is a universal gesture of giving the other person an ear.) To encourage team members to expand on their comments, nod your head using clusters of three nods at regular intervals.

Today’s organizations exist in an increasingly complex and ever-shifting ocean of change. As a result, leaders need to rely more than ever on the intelligence and resourcefulness of their staff. Collaboration is not a “interesting” leadership philosophy. It is an essential ingredient for organizational survival and success.

5 Body Language Hacks that Make You Look Like a LeaderAbout the Author: I offer keynote speeches, webinars, and one-on-one coaching sessions. For more information, please email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com or phone: 1-510-526-1727. My website is: https://carolkinseygoman.com/

From Internship to Leadership, or the Road from an Intern to Managing Director in 10 years

Roxana Diba is the New Managing Director of Golin Romania

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Roxana Diba

Starting May 2021, Roxana Diba will be the new Managing Director of Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG) agency Golin, one of the main PR agencies in Romania. The management team is completed by Cristina Butunoi, who will become the agency’s Deputy Managing Director. After ten years spent in Golin, of which the last four in a management position, Irina Roncea steps back from the agency. 

“Our organizational culture is built around people, and the most eloquent example is Roxana, who joined Golin 10 years ago as an intern, and today takes over the management of the company,” said Veronica Savanciuc, President & CEO of Lowe Group. “I have great confidence in the new management team, which is responsible for carrying on the story of dozens of successful brands – those of our clients; and dozens of passionate people – the Golin team. I thank Irina for these years of success and lessons learned together, and for her significant contribution to consolidating Golin as a market and people builder.”

“My professional path is synonymous with Golin, and this means having had the privilege of developing long-term relationships with our clients, but especially the opportunity to learn and build with the best people,” said Diba. “In addition, I am proud of being a part of a team that has set performance standards, relies on a culture based of mutual support, and enjoys that enviable having fun at work. I am excited about this new chapter, and I am happy to team up with Cristina who has a lot to offer both as a person and as a professional.”

Cristina Butunoi joined Golin in March 2020 as Head of Corporate. With 20 years of experience in corporate and consumer communication, communication with authorities, and the non-profit sector, Cristina’s expertise covers multiple areas, such as energy, banking, industry, retail, real estate, IT, pharmacy, and FMCG. 

“My first year in Golin overlapped with the pandemic, therefore with a lot of remote work, which wasn’t an impediment, on the contrary – this context brought us closer than I would have thought,” said Butunoi. “I was happy from the beginning to find an extraordinary team and clients with whom we share the same solid values, and I am glad we can write the Golin story together.” 

“In all these years, I had the privilege of working with talented, motivated, and passionate people, who have inspired each other and have built meaningful initiatives and projects for other people,” said Roncea. “I believe that Golin’s success will continue to be fuelled by this strong trio of leadership, mentorship, and strong values, and I know that the Golin team and its clients are in the best hands.” 

Golin consolidated its leading position in the local communication industry by securing the #1 place in the Top of PR Agencies in Romania in 2020. Golin is also the only agency that ranked number one at five of the eight editions of Biz PR Awards, while also achieving the record to maintain the first place for four consecutive years. In 2020, the agency’s campaigns also received recognition at the In2Sabre Awards, and the Golin network was again named Global Agency of the Year at the PRWeek Global Awards 2020. Golin’s expertise in social media and influencer marketing led to establishing The Bridge, the first integrated digital and social media hub of a local PR agency. As a result, the agency’s digital and social media campaigns gained recognition every year at awards festivals, and Golin became number one in the top of best agencies to collaborate with, as voted by bloggers in Romania. Golin is the only agency in Romania that has developed an owned tool that analyzes the evolution of social media and digital trends: the annual Digital Recap Report, has reached the 10th edition this year. 

Celebrating Female Leaders Everywhere

rbb Communications

rbb Communications is a woman-owned, integrated agency in South Florida, that has rapidly grown from a seven-person boutique to the largest agency in Florida. With Women’s History Month being a time to admire and learn from the achievements of female leaders everywhere, we asked our own powerful women, that have brought rbb success, what inspires and drives them.

  • What is a “first” that you, or a woman in your family, accomplished?

o    “My mother was the first woman to be a high school math teacher at an all-boys Catholic  school. In a setting where the rest of the teachers were priests and there were no female students, she really stood out.” – Christine Barney, CEO and Managing Partner 

o    “My grandmother was the first in her family to live by herself, in a home she owned, with no husband or boyfriend there to help make the mortgage payments. Granted, my great grandfather (her father) had to co-sign as banks still required that for non-married female homeowners. It was an accomplishment nonetheless.” – Jeanine Karp, Vice President and Partner 

o    “I am the first woman in my family who has left the continent and traveled by choice.” – Valeria Mendoza, Account Manager 

  • Who is a trailblazing woman, in history or current times, that you look up to?

o    “Tamora Pierce, a high fantasy author who built her career on crafting strong female characters that proves women are powerful and can do anything. She didn’t sugar coat it. Maybe these characters had to work twice as hard as the men, but the point was   they could do it   and they didn’t have to give up their female identities.” – Liz Prats, Account Manager 

o    “Amal Clooney – she’s a celebrated humanitarian, a high-powered barrister, has brains, beauty and an enviable wardrobe. Despite juggling family life and a big career, she shows no signs of slowing down. #bo$$lady.” – Ailys Toledo, Senior Account Executive 

o    “Sheryl Sandberg. Not only does she have an impressive resume, she encourages women to venture into stereotypically male careers, has spearheaded a campaign to remove negative terms aimed at women in power and wrote Lean In, encouraging women to achieve their goals.” – Christine Parsons, Account Manager 

o    “Having studied ancient history, I was always interested in hearing about powerful women in those times. Queen Hatshepsut stands out – the first female pharaoh in the history of Egypt to rule with real power. Her successor tried, and failed, to erase her from the history books (destroying statues, carving over wherever her name was written). People like her are a testament to the impact women have made on history from the very start – despite historical records sometimes indicating otherwise.” – Sarah Fenaughty, Account Executive

  • What does it mean to work for a woman-owned and led business? 

o    “It’s a great source of pride. A living and tangible example for my daughter that strong, smart females can achieve anything.” – Jeanine Karp, Vice President and Partner

o    “It means less stress about having to prove my value. The reality is that the business world is still very dominated by males. So, working at a women-led organization removes a little bit of the concern of having to push past stereotypes and/or gender based issues. It’s very freeing for me to be able to focus solely on my work and not how I am perceived or fighting to get a voice due to my gender. So simply put, for me it means professional freedom.” – Andrea Hurtado, Integrated Marketing Manager 

o    “Most small businesses fail.  Being a woman-owned business that succeeds shows that gender should have no role in business. Let’s keep creating a world of equality and inclusiveness.” – Christine Barney, CEO and Managing Partner

Diversity Action Alliance Announces New Leadership Team for 2021

CommPRO Editorial Staff

The Diversity Action Alliance (DAA), a cross-industry coalition dedicated to increasing recruitment, retention, and representation in management for people of color and other under-represented groups in the communications field, announced today the addition of three newly elected leaders for its board of directors.

The DAA board, comprising communications industry leaders and DE&I experts, will be led by:

  • DAA Board Chair: Dr. Denise Hill, Associate Professor at Elon University’s School of Communications
  • DAA Board Vice-Chair: Charlene Wheeless, Principal at Charlene Wheeless, LLC & Senior Advisor Equity & Justice APCO Worldwide
  • DAA Board Treasurer: Dr. Candace Steele Flippin, Chief Communications Officer, Acuity Brands

 “Denise, Charlene and Candace are among the most respected and influential leaders in the communications field and share a deep passion for diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession,” said Patrick Ford, immediate past DAA co-chair and professional in residence at the University of Florida. “The Alliance’s vitally important mission – to be a catalyst for tangible, measurable, and long-overdue action on building a truly diverse and inclusive PR profession – will benefit enormously from the leadership of this dynamic team.”

Dr. Denise Hill said, “The Diversity Action Alliance is focused on creating much-needed change in the communications industry, and I’m excited to continue promoting the acceleration of diversity and inclusion in communications by serving as Board Chair alongside these respected industry leaders.” 

Carmella Glover Promoted to President

The DAA board also announced the promotion of Carmella Glover from Executive Director to President of the DAA. In this new role, Glover will continue to drive forward the organization’s mission, including day-to-day oversight of strategic initiatives, programming and fundraising.

“We’ve seen progress toward our vision, but still have work to do to ensure greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the communications industry,” said Glover. “The DAA thanks Patrice Tanaka and Pat Ford for their tremendous leadership and we look forward to partnering with Denise, Charlene, and Candace to continue the critical work of the DAA.”

About the Diversity Action Alliance

The Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) is a coalition of Public Relations and communications leaders joining forces to accelerate progress in the achievement of meaningful and tangible results in diversity, equity and inclusion across our profession. The DAA’s goal is to achieve continuous improvement for Black professionals as measured by recruitment, retention and representation at all levels. For more information about the Diversity Action Alliance, visit https://www.diversityactionalliance.org/

Five Ways to Nurture Positive Leadership, Offer Hope and Help Others

Dr. Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D., Leadership Expert and Co-Author, “Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition” 

Inclusiveness is a key leadership skill. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was exceptional at being inclusive. All leaders can learn from Dr. King’s use of positive leadership and expressions of hope. Leaders who nurture inclusiveness among employees often experience significant long-term benefits to commitment and productivity too.

Inclusiveness means to accept and recognize people’s differences, relish their perspectives, and establish a “village” where people feel valued and trusted. You can’t begin to make people feel included if you don’t know them. Inclusiveness means finding ways to connect with people. A leader must learn to manage tasks and job responsibilities and find ways to help people at the same time. Here are five leadership qualities that offer hope and positive support:

1)  Listen Deeply. We listened deeply when we were children. Unfortunately, when we become adults many of us stop hearing. We focus instead on talking about our own ideas and ourselves, all the while neither listening nor asking questions. We all need to jump-start our deep listening abilities and recover this lost skill. How do we renew and improve our deep listening? Ask other people questions! If you really practice dialogue, you hold your judgments aside and you listen to somebody else.

2)  Use lots of specific and enthusiastic praise. The more detailed and descriptive the praise, the better. Most praise is too general, and because of this, doesn’t build self-esteem or motivate learning. Many people will simply say, “You look great” or “Good work” or “You did a terrific job on that presentation.” Their praise is generic; they’ve forgotten to add any specific information. Also, put a WOW in your voice and praise with enthusiasm. The difference in its impact will surprise you! Praise is not something given occasionally or on a part-time basis, but continuously, every chance you get. And don’t wait to extend your praise. Give it quickly or soon after it is due.

3)  Reach out to another person. A little compassionate asking, listening and reaching out is sometimes all that’s really needed to create a feeling of belonging or community. Try to see other people’s perspectives and interests. Incorporate their traditions and ideas into the final mix. 

4)  Begin a legacy of giving and service now. A giving mindset says: let me try to make the world more beautiful.  It can be as simple as walking an older colleague across a busy street, or helping a team member prepare for a speech—or as difficult as speaking one’s mind and conscience on a controversial topic, or spearheading a campaign to offer a regular breakfast and shelter to the homeless in one’s neighborhood. 

5)  Treat each other with kindness. Talk together—when the time is just right—about the importance of kindness and what it looks like.  It can be as simple as “Hi!,” a smile, or “How are you feeling?” Look for ways to show kindness to others who may be especially needy—a friend, a neighbor, or sick or elderly person at work—then take a friend or village or team member along as you carry them out. Find the opportunity to talk to others: Is there anyone who needs a kind thought or act? How about the person who is “different”?  How about the person who is difficult?  Even if one doesn’t feel like being kind, there is value in doing it anyway—because the kind act itself can change the feeling that follows. Help others see that kindness can make all the difference in someone’s life, yet it’s so easy to do! 

Susan Smith KuczmarskiAbout the Author: Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D., is the co-founder of Kuczmarski Innovation which provides thought leadership on innovation, culture, management and values. She is the author of 6 awarding-winning books, including 3 on leadership. Her just-released Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition (co-authored with Tom Kuczmarski) shares techniques to cultivate and motivate people. Apples Are Square: Thinking Differently About Leadership describes six innovative leadership qualities. Her research, speaking, teaching and training workshops have made her a leading expert on leadership.


HPL Leadership 2021 Outlook: Looming Challenges, New Opportunities and Cautious Optimism

Hot Paper Lantern

While this year has presented many unique challenges for communications professionals, it has also brought new opportunities. We asked our leadership team what they predict the next year will look like. Here’s what they had to say:

“2021 will continue to affect how we work, collaborate and spend time together as Americans. We will continue to live in this closed-off COVID-19 world for the first 6-9 months, until the vaccine has seen widespread use. Then, the workplace and how we experience each other, customers and colleagues in closer quarters will be supercharged for a brief time period. This is because of the need and void that exists and how strongly the urge to come back together will be. 

The net result will be many new/added conferences, meetings, events and a host of other ways people can come in contact with each other to build opportunities and business. 

Eventually, life will change, creating a middle ground because technology has allowed us to operate effectively in a virtual world. But, the initial mad rush to see and experience people close up will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before throughout the latter half of 2021.”

Ed Moed, CEO

“Taking a page from Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities,” 2021 will be the best of times and the worst of times. The worst of times during the first half of the year will be plagued by the rapid and unchecked spread of COVID-19. Infections, deaths and lockdowns will soar as the country awaits the mass roll-out of the vaccine – all of which will place additional strain on the U.S. healthcare system and economy. However, as vaccine deployment reaches a tipping point where society and the economy can resume more normal operations, which I anticipate will be sometime during Q3, consumers will unleash pent-up demand and spending in what some are predicting will resemble the Roaring ‘20s. This dichotomy between the best and worst of times – and the speed in which it is likely to happen — will create challenges and opportunities for brands like never experienced before. 

With some surveys showing that a majority of Americans are hesitant or afraid to take the vaccine, the public relations industry will play a central role in educating the public, assuaging fears and convincing people that the vaccine is safe and viable. The stakes will be high and the risk of failure will loom large for those who wade into these waters, but it’s also a huge opportunity for the industry (and those who take the lead) to showcase the impact of strategic communications in what is arguably the most significant campaign of our lifetimes.” 

Ted Birkhahn, President 

“Corporate purpose, as an anchor to build out feel good initiatives that serve to better the world is, without a doubt, essential. In 2021, with the tenor of uncertainty and mistrust, purpose must also have meaning. Individuals – be they employees, customers, partners or prospects – have wants and needs that have shifted. People may or may not want to know your purpose; but people need to see that you mean what you say. 

Actions will be rewarded. Words will not. And words that are not supported by positive and direct actions will render purpose meaningless.” 

Mike Friedin, Chief Strategy Officer  

“Leadership communications and actions around mental and physical health – for employees, customers, partners and themselves – will remain at the top of list of 2021 priorities. Pandemic fatigue and prolonged challenges will test that focus and commitment but keeping that at the core of all actions and decisions will strengthen resolve, perseverance, creativity and performance in 2021.”    

Sara Whitman, Chief People Officer

Our outlook for what lies ahead is cautiously optimistic for the marketing and communications industry. The first half of the year will likely present similar challenges to those we have faced throughout 2020, however, this will dramatically shift as vaccines continue to roll out. Mental and physical health will continue to be paramount for informing leadership communication strategies, and corporate purpose will be centered around organizations’ actions, not promises.  

What are your 2021 predictions for the communications industry?

Inclusive Leadership


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to keep leaders up at night. Tragic events earlier this year and mounting pressure also have leaders seeking ways to be more inclusive. Many companies have since ramped up their diversity and equality initiatives and programs. This year, the difference is that many of the changes are operational and reflect a commitment to rebuilding diversity structures that will endure.

The killings of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor earlier this year sparked emotional worldwide protests. But like all reactions to tragic events, they eventually die down and often disappear. These moments transformed many companies into movements that will have a long-lasting effect on hiring, training, and succession planning. But what else might leaders in these organizations do to perpetuate positive change?

A cornerstone to this type of initiative is building and maintaining trust among employees, shareholders, and customers. Many of the companies that initiated diversity changes in their organizations brought in people the skills to successfully transform the transformation.

As marketer Alexei Orlov says, “These components of trust went a long way in these hires. Competence and whether the person hired to install and lead the program could do what they were hired to do was one. Another was communication skills. Could they be trusted to be transparent and candid, but yet discreet? And finally, could they be trusted to be dependable and follow through, so people knew they were reliable? Value those who exhibit trustworthy behavior.”

Listening and learning are important. Inclusive leaders should ask a lot of questions. Not only does doing so engage others, but it also gives them an understanding that their leader doesn’t have all the answers and is open to other ideas and suggestions. AT&T executives did a successful listening tour among its employees earlier this year before launching its new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative (DEI) and sharing it with its workforce.

One of the changes implemented at AT&T after announcing its new DEI initiative included holding its employees to higher standards. DEI is now a part of employee performance evaluations. Employees are incentivized to do better with DEI and penalized if they don’t as part of this new standard.

Even while introducing new initiatives around DEI, leaders should be truly inclusive, which even means listening to people who don’t share the same ideas or values. This kind of empathy can be difficult but is important for leaders who wish to “walk the talk” about DEI. And it will be a shining example for others to follow.

Change can sometimes be difficult and may take time in some organizations, but leaders must continue to communicate openly and frequently with their staff. Openly sharing thoughts or personal feelings about inclusion can be extremely powerful, and leaders should use them when possible. Not every employee can be expected to be on the same learning curve when it comes to equality, but keeping them informed and listening to them will produce positive results and a motivated workforce that will endure for a long time.

About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of leading PR firm 5WPR.

The America Derby: How We Pick Leaders is More Like a Horse Race

Thomas J. Madden, Chairman and CEO, Transmedia Group

The contenders in this past America Derby were the favorites, “The Economy” (3 to 2) ridden by Donald Trump and “Pandemic” ridden by Joe Biden (2 to 1).  

Pandemic is the only horse with blinders while besides conventional hat and goggles jockey Biden proudly dons his signature facemask. Many horse race handicappers say if Trump wasn’t such a stubborn jockey, he could easily win if he wore a facemask too and kept distance from fans who made him a heavy favorite.

Other horses in this year’s America Derby were “Systemic Racism” (4 to 1); “Immigration” 10 to 1; “Juris Prudence” (6 to 1); “Supreme Court” (7 to 2); “Healthcare” (6 to 2); “Climate Change” (20 to 1); “Criminal Justice” (5 to 1); “Coronavirus Vaccine” (30 to 1); “Higher Taxes” (20 to 1); “Obama Care” (20 to 1); “Tariff Diplomacy” (20 to 1).


Health Care takes the lead followed by Supreme Court second, Obama Care third.  Then Juris Prudence, Climate Change and Criminal Justice. 

As they turn into the backstretch, coming up fast on the outside is Systemic Racism taking second place, Obama Care drops to third with Healthcare still in front by a furlong as we head into the homestretch.

Now Juris Prudence and Coronavirus Vaccine make their moves racing up to third and fourth place followed by Immigration, Tariff Diplomacy, then Supreme Court, The Economy and Pandemic.

Now heading into the homestretch, picking up speed The Economy moves up to third place with Pandemic a close second as the two are almost neck and neck heading to overtake the leader Healthcare.  

It’s a battle in the stretch with Pandemic and The Economy edging by Healthcare and racing neck and neck. They cross the finish line.

It’s Pandemic by a nose!

The winner is Pandemic, but wait a minute, there’s a flag, an objection so maybe Pandemic is not the winner as one of the judges says there was a foul committed against The Economy.  Something to do with mail-in ballots. Whatever that means.

We’ll have to see what happens after judges watch the film to decide if a foul was indeed committed.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the judges have ruled the finish stands.  Pandemic is the winner.  And it’s just as the handicappers called it.  

If there was no Pandemic, The Economy would have won!