Think Bigger with Thought Leadership

Stacey Ross Cohen, CEO/President of Co-Communications

So, what exactly is a thought leader?  And how can it benefit you? A thought leader is considered an authority on a particular subject matter or industry. They share their deep knowledge, insights and ideas with audiences through speaking engagements, media interviews and content development — — and have a truly distinct (sometimes disruptive) perspective which inspires innovative thinking in others. Establishing yourself as an expert in your field gives you a competitive edge and builds both mind and market share. When done right, you can reap many benefits — career advancement, higher salary, rewarding partnerships, new clients/business opportunities, and revenue growth.

Consumers make purchase decisions based on an emotional connection with a brand or individual. In order for someone to engage or buy something — they need to know, like and trust you.. Since thought leaders humanize a brand and are perceived as credible sources, they (positively) influence purchase decisions which drives sales. Below are five steps to become known as a thought leader: 

Define Your Brand. Building a personal brand is the first step to develop thought leader status. Identify your purpose, strengths, values and passion. This is not about me, me, me — — it’s about your value to others. You need to understand your target audience as well as competition. What’s important to your audience? How can you solve their needs better than your competitors? Only then can you crystallize your expertise or niche and put your stake in the ground. Although it seems personal brands (and thought leadership) “just happen,” they don’t — the best ones take years and require an ongoing effort.

Create a strategic roadmap. Throwing spaghetti at the wall simply does not work. It’s all too easy to jump into the tactics (e.g., creating a blog). You need to be both intentional and proactive and have a well-informed strategy. When we work with a new client to build thought leadership, we insist on starting with a plan which details objectives, target audiences, messaging, tactics and a 6–12 month timeline. It’s also a good idea to create a monthly content calendar to schedule what, when, and where to publish. Align your content with trends and national holidays. For instance, if you’re a climate change expert, you may want to step up your content during Earth month (April).

Develop Content That’s Relevant (and Platform-Appropriate) Good is not enough — you need to create great content (curated and self-published) to capture your audience. Whether you develop articles, blog posts, ebooks, news releases, white papers or videos, make certain the content speaks to your audience. It is also important to be bold, share your point of view, and make industry predictions. Content is more than words; make use of striking visuals. Consider creating infographics to present data in a more digestible way. Also, showcase your value with a “wow” portfolio of client testimonials, earned media, achievements, success stories, and a professional bio/profile with headshot. 

Become your own news channel: Once you have great content, you need to deliver through a multi-channel approach (websites, speaking engagements, social media, blogs, e-newsletters, podcasts). Select channels that are in sync with who you are and reach your audience — — you can’t be on everywhere. Speaking is a top tool to build thought leadership. Capture your speaking engagements and make sure to publish them on your website and social channels. Create a speaker’s bio and/or sizzle reel to further grow your opportunities within the speaking realm. I recently interviewed Ryan Serhant, a top-ranking real estate broker, author, and television personality (Million Dollar Listing New York) who recognizes the importance of educating and entertaining his audience. With 2 million plus social media followers, Ryan is an example of “broadcasting” at its best. He is a Forbes contributor, YouTube Vlogger, speaks at industry associations, and is frequently interviewed and quoted by national media. 

Grow Your Network. It’s been said that “Your network is your net worth.” Networking is one of the most important investments you can make to grow your following. Engage and build relationships with mentors, influencers, and industry leaders. Consider joining a board or committee (both professional and community). Be social — — attend virtual networking events and be sure to connect with your new contact promptly via LinkedIn etc. I have organically grown my LinkedIn followers to 27,000 which has given me brand visibility, higher search ranking, and business/speaking opportunities.

Thought leadership is earned and requires time, effort and reinforcement plus a large and engaged following to help spread insights and ideas. Ultimately, it is your audience who decides if you deserve thought leader status. Time to think big!

Stacey Ross Cohen is CEO/President of Co-Communications, a full-service marketing communications agency, with offices in New York and Connecticut. She can be reached at

About the Author:  Stacey is an award-winning communications professional who earned her marketing stripes on Madison Avenue and at major television networks before launching Co-Communications, an integrated marketing communications firm with offices in New York and Connecticut. Co-Communications serves clients in education, healthcare, real estate, professional services, technology, and the nonprofit realm. Services include branding, website development, inbound marketing, PR and social media. Stacey excels at taking brands to market — leveraging each client’s unique voice to make an indelible impact on social media, in board rooms, and everywhere in between. She has garnered the Forbes Enterprise and PRSA Practitioner of the Year awards for her work in the communications field.  

Stacey is a sought-after speaker and recently made her debut on the TED stage. She is a blogger at the Huffington Post and Thrive Global and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Crain’s, and a suite of other national media. Stacey holds a B.S. from Syracuse University, MBA from Fordham University and recently completed a certificate program in Media, Technology and Entertainment at NYU Leonard Stern School of Business.

Ronn Torossian With 3 Dos and Don’ts of Thought Leadership Marketing

Ronn Torossian With 3 Dos and Don'ts of Thought Leadership MarketingIn the past, marketing was simple. Companies simply paid to display their advertisements on televisions and billboards or paid a copywriter to talk about how amazing their business was. However, in the modern age, where customers are more skeptical than ever before, brands are under increasing pressure to prove that they’re as sensational as they claim to be. 

Thought leadership is just one of the strategies that have emerged to help entrepreneurs demonstrate their true professionalism and expertise. Through thought leadership articles, videos and podcasts, business leaders can demonstrate that they genuinely understand their audience’s concerns and have the solutions that they’re looking for. 

The question is, how can companies make the most of thought leadership strategies?

1.     Show Don’t Tell 

The idea behind thought leadership content is that it provides companies with a way to demonstrate their expertise, rather than just telling people how knowledgeable they are. It’s crucial to convince customers that the brand knows what it’s talking about. 

This means that if a business leader wants to show that their company understands digital marketing, they can’t just talk about how much they’ve learned about marketing over the years. They need to address some of the most common problems that their audience is facing and show them actionable ways to overcome those issues.

2.     Dig Deep, Don’t Just Scratch the Surface 

While almost anyone can write an article that provides actionable advice with a little bit of research, the thing that separates a thought leadership piece from any other blog is its depth and attention to detail. Being a thought leader doesn’t necessarily mean that someone knows everything about every corner of their field. Instead, it means that they’re the go-to person in their niche for a specific thing. 

A highly detailed blog post backed by statistics and quotes from other thought leaders will make much more of an impact than several shorter posts that only touch the surface of certain topics. Thought leaders need to be willing to look at topics from different angles and explore ideas that other people have never considered before. This is how they set themselves apart from the crowd.

3.     Analyze, Don’t Assume 

Finally, it’s important to take an analytical approach to thought leadership. It’s easy for business leaders to assume that they know what people want to learn about, but the truth often surprises them when they dig down into their analytics. Before producing a thought leadership piece, it’s a good idea for industry experts to carefully consider the needs of their target audience. 

It may be worth looking at things like trending topics on social media or sending out a poll where people can vote on what they want to hear most from a specific business. Take note of what customers are truly asking for, then respond to their questions and needs with a thought leadership piece that demonstrates expertise and industry knowledge. 

Achieving success with thought leadership isn’t easy – but with these three tips, company leaders can improve their chances of impressing their audience.

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



Centralizing PR Analysis to Exceed Thought Leadership and ROI Goals

Centralizing PR Analysis to Exceed Thought Leadership and ROI GoalsWes Tyeryar, 

The advances in big data are seemingly endless. But just because you can access tons of data, doesn’t necessary mean that your media analysis is up to par. This is further exacerbated when you work in large, highly complex, national teams, that create data silos.

The communications team of one of the nation’s leading financial insurance providers faced this very issue. Local teams and individuals reported PR metrics from offices across the country and multiple PR agencies were creating reports based on different data, their measurement process was fragmented and ineffectual.

This, in turn, made it near impossible to prove their contribution toward company-wide business goals let alone efficiently track important mentions of their studies, top spokespeople, and issues that dominated the company’s coverage every quarter.

Discover how centralizing PR analysis and reporting helped the communications department collectively excel on company goals like expanding thought leadership, finding whitespace opportunities, and driving a return on investment for their research studies – a key initiative for the company.


Read Case Study: Centralizing PR Analysis to Exceed Thought Leadership and ROI Goals

Using Thought Leadership to Stand Out in an Established Market

Using Thought Leadership to Stand Out in an Established MarketTamsen Huver, Director, Western Region, Strategic Partnerships, PublicRelay

You would think that excelling in an industry where you have a handful of competitors would be easy, but that is not always the case.

In the credit reporting industry, for instance, companies often have a very difficult time differentiating themselves from one another.

That’s why when the communications team of one of the three bureaus made it a priority to help the organization gain market share, it had to first analyze its competitive landscape to identify opportunities for SOV expansion in areas that would help it stand out from the pack. They chose to highlight their thought leadership in the areas of data and analytics as well as promoting their research reports.

Learn how the Communications team devised a measurement program that provided them with key trends and events for actionable insights. By asking and answering integral questions like: Which messages are resonating with influencers? How does this compare to our competitors’ coverage? Are our studies reaching the right audiences? they supercharged their quest to climb to the top of their industry, serving as the ultimate authority in the areas of data and analytics.

Read the Case Study: Using Thought Leadership to Stand Out in an Established Market

Thought Leadership Actually Requires Thought and Leadership

Frank StrongFrank Strong, Founder & President, Sword and the Script Media

The popular technology news site TechCrunch recently announced it was curtailing contributed content. It will stop considering unsolicited pitches from the public in favor of invitation-only contributions.

Why the sudden change? Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino and Senior Editor Jon Shieber underscore PR motivations in a co-written commentary:

“…over time, we noticed that the pipeline for the network had gotten a bit overrun with pieces that we strongly suspected were ghost-written by PR or really had no business being given the platform. For every gem, there were increasingly a lot of rocks.

Rather than sifting through an inbox of thousands of pitches looking for the diamond in the rough, our contributor network is going to go invite-only.”

Suffice to say, those editors know what’s best for their news site, but if we put the relationship between PR and media aside, I don’t think who puts pen to paper is the precise issue here.

Many founders, particularly in the emerging technology, have a dire need for business savvy PR talent to help them tell a story. PR is often at its best when it helps a business articulate an idea in order to attract the right attention.

The important distinction here is that PR is not the idea but rather it is a vehicle for eliciting an idea.

Erick Sherman, a prolific freelance journalist, beautifully summed up what I believe is central to the TechCrunch conundrum in an Off Script interview, the Q&A series for my Sword and the Script blog:

“Companies also have to invest their own time. I know so many top practitioners who have to create something out of whole cloth because a company won’t make experts available. It’s like asking someone to come in and write a thought-leadership piece and then have no thoughts to offer.”

Contributed articles are an important way to earn visibility for new ideas, especially the sort that has not been covered by the media or isn’t generally well understood. Contributed content is thought leadership at its finest: opening or changing minds, defining markets and shaping reputations.

But thought leadership is not something you can just toss over the wall to PR and hope it turns into coverage. I believe invitation-only contributions will make this very clear and will in fact, make quality PR more and not less important.

About the Author: Frank Strong is the founder and president of Sword and the Script Media, LLC, a veteran-owned PR, content marketing and social media agency in greater Atlanta.

Are We Entering the ‘Golden Age’ of PR? My Thoughts Following PR Council’s Harvard Leadership Program

My Thoughts Following PR Council’s Harvard Leadership Program


Mac Joseph, Vice President of Digital Marketing, Paul Werth Associates

For two days in mid-June, I went back to school. No grades, no pressures. Just me in a classroom with a world-class professor and 28 of my industry peers. Our master of ceremonies was Dr. Ashish Nanda, Robert Braucher Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School Executive Education Fellow. Dr. Nanda has led this program for PR Council for nearly 10 years, and his experience shined.

Our curriculum was based on Harvard Business School case studies. We spent our time reviewing broader digital disruption through experiences of some of the world’s most innovative companies – New York Times, Amazon, Uber, Nike and United Airlines. There were charts, calculations, discussions on “radical innovation” and “business cannibalization.” Of all the information bouncing around in my head during the three weeks since the program, one statement made by Dr. Nanda stood out above the rest:

“We are entering the ‘Golden Age’ of public relations.”

Really? Are we? Of course, I wanted to believe the claim, but I couldn’t help wondering if our good professor was pandering to the audience. After nearly 12 hours of debate and discussion and three weeks of reflection, Dr. Nanda’s words are truly sounding wiser by the day.

In today’s hyper-connected, digital world everything is online, public and instantly chronicled into human history. I have read that in 2017 alone, we as a people will create more data than the previous 5,000 years combined. How much data does Amazon have on you? They know what I eat, what I watch, what I read. Not only is every tweet, post or sneeze a part of public record, but information seems to spread at the speed of light. Just ask United Airlines if a certain video of a certain customer experience traveled faster digitally than it would have as a VHS tape in an analog world. Beyond data and the viral spread of content, organizations are moving swiftly toward automation and artificial intelligence (Uber is all over this), and are increasingly asking for human experiences to be distilled into zeros and ones.

As momentum carries (or ) the world to its future, digital, automated self, I see a pendulum that will undeniably swing back. I’m not suggesting a resurgence of snail mail pen pals. Rather, as we discussed at the Harvard Leadership Program, I refer to the importance of the human element.

Uber’s technology platform can do wonders by itself connecting supply with demand, but can the platform mitigate damage to the company’s reputation resulting from actions taken at the C-suite level? Can social media bots effectively calm real human concerns following video footage circulating about a United Airlines customer experience? As advertisers encounter online ad blockers, will automation alone be able to create original, emotional and effective content that captures attention and moves people to brand loyalty?

As some of the most successful, tech-forward, innovative companies are discovering, perhaps they should focus a bit more on the human element, the emotional appeal, and the building of a sound reputation. One way to get started? Ask someone in PR.

Body Language and Leadership Effectiveness – How to Achieve ‘Executive Presence’

Dr. Nick Morgan, Author

Most of us think of charisma, or executive presence, as something mysterious and elusive that certain executives are born with or are trained to achieve in some executive school we haven’t been invited to.  We all know we need that mysterious quality when we’re in front of an audience, or in an important meeting, or taking part in a crucial negotiation.  But what is executive presence, or charisma, exactly?  Is it sprinkled like fairy dust on a few lucky individuals, or is it something anyone can learn?

Charisma or executive presence is something we all can learn.  In fact, it is relatively simple to understand.  But it takes real work to demonstrate it when it’s needed.  It consists of three related activities involving body language and your unconscious mind.

First, you need to understand that we are always communicating two conversations simultaneously – the content, what we’re saying, and the body language underlying it – which reveals our actual attitude toward what we’re saying.  So, to take a very simple example, if I say I’m excited to meet you, but my body language indicates that I’m unhappy, or distracted, or angry about something – I’ve got my arms folded, or I have a scowl on my face, or I’m looking over my shoulder at something else – then you won’t believe what I’m saying.  The body language always trumps the content.  It’s how we determine what we really are feeling toward each other.

So the first step to executive presence is to align your body language and your content.

The second step is to become clear about your intent, because if you are not clear, then you will fail to keep your body language and content aligned.  Becoming an intentional communicator means deciding how you are going to show up for that speech, or that important meeting, or that negotiation.  Are you going in with high energy and excitement?  Or are you letting your nerves distract you and cause your body language to display a lack of confidence?  You must decide how you wish to be present in the moment, and then work to achieve that feeling.

The third step to achieving charisma, or strong executive presence, is to focus.  Most of us go through the day with a complicated, ever-growing to-do list in our heads.  We’re thinking about where we’ve been, where we need to be, what’s for dinner, that vacation coming up, the balance on our credit cards – anything but the present moment.  When you carry that to-do list around, your body language looks distracted, unfocused, and ultimately weak, because your body signals what your mind is feeling – that you’re pulled in several directions at once.

In order to prepare for that important meeting or speech, then, part of the work – in fact, the most important part – is to spend a few minutes focusing your mind on how you’re feeling, what the meeting or speech is about, what you want to achieve in it, and eliminating any other distracting thought that might cause you to be less than fully present.  This focus is not simple to achieve, at first, but it does become easier as time goes on if you practice it.

So that’s executive presence, in three steps.  First, align your message and your body language.  Next, decide on your intention for the important meeting or speech coming up.  And third, focus just before the event so that nothing distracts you.  If you can achieve emotional focus and walk into the event with that focus clear and strong, then you will have executive presence.

It’s almost impossible for most people to take control over every aspect of their posture, their gestures, and their motions during an important event, while also thinking about what they’re going to say, listening to anyone else who’s talking, and to make sure they pay attention to anything else that’s going on in the room.  But you can take these three steps, and if you do them rigorously enough, your body language will take care of itself.

About the Author: Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication coaches and thinkers. His clients include leaders of Fortune 50 companies, and he has coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear on the Today Show, and to take on the investment community. He is the author of several acclaimed books on public speaking and communication. His most recent book is The Washington Post bestseller Can You Hear Me?: How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.


A Discussion of What Women Can and Cannot Control About Their Leadership Presence (#10 Trending Article in 2019)

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

You may have a leadership title, or tremendous leadership potential, but that in itself doesn’t give you leadership presence.

These are typical comments I hear when asked to coach an up-and-coming female whose career has stalled:

“It isn’t that she couldn’t do the next job. It’s that no one on the executive team sees her that way.”

“She has a great track record, but she doesn’t look like a leader.”

“She’s warm and friendly, but she doesn’t have the gravitas we are looking for in a senior position.”

Leadership presence is not an attribute automatically assigned to you because of your business results. It isn’t necessarily reflective of your true qualities and potential. Instead, it depends entirely on how others evaluate you. Being perceived as a leader when interacting with customers, peers, or executives, is the essence of leadership presence.

Women face unique challenges when it comes to being perceived as leaders. They may even add to these challenges by buying into to the “Imposter Syndrome,” or using body language that appears submissive, or waiting for others to recognize and reward their achievements.

You can’t avoid making an impression on others, but you can control the kind of impression you make.

Or can you?

Here are three situations where you have absolutely no control over some aspects — and total control over others:

1) Making a great first impression

What you can’t control:

Other people’s biases, prejudices, and negative past experiences with someone you resemble.

What you can control:

It takes less than seven seconds for people to assess your power, confidence, competence, warmth, and empathy. Here are seven ways to make your first impression a positive one:

  • Adjust your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter an office for a business interview, or step onstage to make a presentation, make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody.
  • Stand tall.Pull your shoulders back and hold your head high. This is a posture of confidence and self-esteem.
  • Smile. A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says, “I’m friendly and approachable.”
  • Make eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes transmits energy and indicates interest and openness. (To improve your eye contact, make a practice of noticing the eye color of everyone you meet.)
  • Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the “eyebrow flash” that is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgement.
  • Lean in slightly. Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and interested. But be respectful of the other person’s space. That means, in most business situations, staying about two feet away.
  • Shake hands. Research shows it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with a single handshake. (Just make sure you have a nice firm grip, as your partner will “read” your level of confidence from the quality of your handshake.)

2) Projecting authority and power

What you can’t control: 

Gender stereotyping — that (primarily) subconscious preference for females to be seen as nurturing, rather than powerful.

A Discussion of What Women Can and Cannot Control About Their Leadership PresenceWhat you can control:

There are two sets of signals that people look for in leaders: Power/Authority/Status and Warmth/Empathy/Likeability. Women usually get high scores in the warmth category, but may lose ground when it comes to projecting authority and power.

When you are feeling sure of yourself and your message, you automatically display signs of authority and power. What interferes with this natural process is the Imposter Syndrome — the inability of women (more than of their male counterparts) to internalize accomplishments, resulting in the fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. And that insecurity is often displayed nonverbally.

To build your intrinsic self-confidence, try recording your small wins in a success journal (on a daily basis – perhaps right before you go to bed) and watch how this act of awareness boosts your self-esteem. Also, notice what your body is saying.

Women tend to condense their bodies, keeping elbows tucked in close to their sides, tightly crossing their legs, stacking their materials in small, neat piles, and contracting their bodies to take up as little space as possible. When you sit in a manner that makes you looks smaller, it also minimizes your look of authority.

On the other hand, power and authority are nonverbally demonstrated through a command of height and space. When you sit up straight, claim space by hooking an arm over the back of your chair and spreading out your belongings, you appear to be more assured. While standing with your feet close together makes you look hesitant or unsure of what you are saying, widening your stance, relaxing your knees and centering your weight in your lower body give you a “solid” and confident look.

The quality of your voice can also be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are judged to be less powerful and more nervous than speakers with lower pitched voices. One easy technique I learned from a speech therapist is to put your lips together and say, “Um hum, um hum, um hum.” Doing so relaxes your jaw and throat, allowing your voice to find its optimal pitch.

Remember: You don’t have to choose between warmth and power. You can remain likeable and still project more authority simply by exhibiting these subtle nonverbal cues.

3) Being a serious contender for that senior position

What you can’t control:

Favoritism or a “boy’s club” mentality.

What you can control:

Sharpen up your presentation skills. You impact and influence an audience best when your messages are clear, compelling and brief. Simplicity isn’t just a “nice to have” communication technique. It’s a necessity for being perceived as a leader. A good tip is to ask yourself: “In 10 words or less, what is my key message?” If you can’t state it succinctly to yourself, you are not ready to communicate it to others. I also advise using the “newspaper format” of stating that key message (the headline) upfront.

Sometimes the smallest word choice can have a big impact. Use words that carry a sense of ownership and self-reliance. Say “I won’t” (which indicates you have decided not to do something) rather than “I can’t” (which implies you don’t have the skills or talents for the task). Say “I choose to,” not “I have to.”

Just as important as it is to use self-assured phrases, it is equally important to eliminate qualifiers, fillers, and minimizers. People will judge you as lacking conviction if you use qualifiers such as: To the best of my knowledge . . . I could be wrong . . . This may not be a good idea but… Fillers like “um” and “uh” make you seem unprepared and uncertain. (BTW: Many fillers can be eliminated if you just pause between thoughts.) And minimize your use of minimizers – eliminating words like: “Maybe, “sort of,” “kind of,” “somewhat” – if you want to sound confident.

Research with senior leaders in Silicon Valley found that the top criterion for promotion was visibility. That’s why doing a great job and communicating well are only the prerequisites for being considered for a senior-level promotion. One savvy female executive stated it this way: “It’s not enough to be a legend in your own mind.”

Are the executives in your company aware of your talents and job performance? If not, you need to increase your visibility by volunteering for key projects, offering to give presentations, publicizing your team’s accomplishments, and taking an active part in your professional association. You need to broaden and deepen your network and look for mentors and sponsors who will guide and help promote you.

You don’t have total control over other people’s perception of you, but you may have more control than you think.

About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international keynote speaker and leadership presence coach. She’s the author of “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt How You Lead” and creator of LinkedInLearning’s video series: “Body Language for Leaders.  For more information, visit[/author] 

Humility as an Attribute of Effective Leadership (#1 Trending Article in 2019)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published last summer and has achieved an extraordinary readership.  It is a timely and important topic.  Appreciation to Helio Fred Garcia for sharing his wisdom with the CommPRO community.

Helio Fred Garcia, Executive Director, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership

One of the common patterns of mis-handled crises of recent years, from Volkswagen to Wells Fargo to Equifax, is CEOs who seem unable to appreciate the point of view of their most important stakeholders, and who persist in saying and doing things that only infuriate those whose trust they need.

Arrogance among leaders is a common barrier to effective crisis response, that causes leaders to fail to empathize with their most important stakeholders. Arrogance is a potentially fatal leadership failing.

The Need for Humility

Humility isn’t a word we often see in business. Humility all too often is interpreted as weakness, especially in competitive cultures like Wall Street, politics, or the top of big organizations.

But the best leaders exhibit humility; the best-handled crises are those where humility prevails.

One of the common patterns in mishandled crises is the absence of humility. Such bungled crises reflect what my friend, America’s Crisis Guru® Jim Lukaszewski, calls “testosterosis,” which he labels as a “powerful and hugely costly affliction.” He defines the affliction this way:

“Testosterosis: Men and women both have it. It’s that state of extraordinary irritation and agitation when something goes awry which makes us want to lash out rather than fess up; to slap a few folks around to see what happens; an agitated state caused by adverse circumstances which we regret about the time it begins, but is most often one of the things leaders, lawyers and other top people wind up apologizing for.”

But a little humility can prevent testosterosis.

A dollop of humility tempers other attributes, and makes a leader even stronger. Humility helps a leader to recognize that maybe – just maybe – he or she might be wrong; that there may be other valid perspectives; that he or she doesn’t have to be the smartest person in every room, at every meeting; that he or she doesn’t need to prevail in every disagreement.

The best leaders take responsibility in a crisis by using what Good to Great author Jim Collins describes as the paradoxical combination of humility and fierce resolve. He admonishes that humility must not be mistaken as weakness. He notes that the most effective leaders are a study in duality:

“…modest and willful, shy and fearless. To grasp this concept, consider Abraham Lincoln, who never let his ego get in the way of his ambition to create an enduring great nation… Those who thought Lincoln’s understated manner signaled weakness in the man found themselves terribly mistaken.”

Emotional intelligence guru Daniel Goleman, in a Harvard Business Review article “What Makes a Good Leader?,” identifies self-awareness as the preeminent leadership skill:

“People with a high degree of self-awareness know their weaknesses and aren’t afraid to talk about them.”

He notes, however, that many executives mistake such candor for ‘wimpiness.'”

Pope: Power Without Humility is Dangerous and Self-Destructive

Indeed, Pope Francis, in a TED Talk recorded in April, 2017, noted that humility is not weakness; rather, it is a kind of fortitude. He said,

“Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

The Pope used a simile to illustrate the consequence of having an imbalance of humility and resolve:

“There is a saying in Argentina: ‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility. Through humility… power… becomes a service, a force for good.”


Humility Enables Empathy

Humility is what makes empathy possible.

Humility helps leaders to connect with others up, down, and across the chain of command; to build organizations and cultures that are more likely to thrive; to understand the perspectives of other stakeholders. The best leaders have a temperament that blends both power and humility that allows them to create a culture of accountability in all directions.

The end of 2017 revealed a powerful example of effective leadership as the tempering of power with humility.  As covered by, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, was addressing troops in Afghanistan just before Christmas.



He told of the time when, as a one-star general commanding Marines in Iraq in 2006, he acted grinchy because he was away from his family at Christmas. He initially exhibited some testosterosis:

“It was was Camp Fallujah, it was cold, it was wet, rainy… I just got up in the morning… Overnight they had put up all the Christmas stuff, and Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus, Rudolf, and little trees and lights, and I’m like, [shouting] Who did this? Why are you doing this? I don’t want to be here for Christmas. And this is reminding me that I’m here. Take it all down!”

That could have been it. He was the boss, a general, addressing subordinate staff, in a war zone. But what happened next is remarkable. General Neller recounts,

“And this female sergeant, name escapes me, maybe 5 foot 1, stands up and says, ‘General, you need to knock that sh*t off. I don’t want to listen to any of that whiny sh*t. We’re here, it’s Christmas, we’re your family, you’re not going to be home, so suck it up… Sir!'”

General Neller was taken aback.  He stood silently:

“And I kind of stood there [pause]… didn’t quite know what to say [pause]…  looked at my boots [pause]… and I raised my head and said, ‘Yes, Ma’am, you are correct. I am sorry. This is my family for Christmas. And I will do my very best to have as good a Christmas as I can.'”

This expression of humility, this acknowledgement of his initial failure, this apology and acknowledgment of the rightness of the sergeant’s admonition, is an extraordinary demonstration of leadership. Officers typically do not address non-commissioned officers as Sir or Ma’am, but rather by rank, Sergeant. But here General Neller intentionally showed respect for his subordinate, addressing her as Ma’am.

It is also remarkable that despite the disparity of rank and power the sergeant felt empowered to address him directly. General Neller had created an environment in which accountability in the form of such push-back was appropriate. And here the follower, the sergeant, had become the leader, holding the general accountable for a violation of his core responsibility, the well-being of his Marines.

You can see General Neller tell this story here.

Humility as a Leadership Discipline

This ability to understand the perspectives of stakeholders is critical to being an effective leader and to getting through a crisis effectively.

Finally, humility recognizes that there’s a big difference between responsibility and blame; that taking responsibility regardless of where the blame may lay down the organization is a first step in getting people to focus on a solution rather than simply point fingers.

Humility marks the best leaders and the best handled crises.

Helio Fred Garcia discusses Humility as an Attribute of Effective Leadership About the Author: Helio Fred Garcia, who teaches crisis at New York University and Columbia University, is the author of, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis.

Golin Leadership Structure Appoints Matt Neale CEO

Gary Rudnick Named President & COO

Matt Neale named CEOCommPRO Editorial Staff

IPG’s Constituency Management Group (CMG) today announced a streamlined leadership structure at Golin, a leading global public relations firm. Matt Neale will take over as Golin’s sole CEO, effective immediately. Mr. Neale, who had served as co-CEO since 2016 under a shared chief executive leadership structure, will report to Andy Polansky, chairman and CEO of CMG.

In addition, Gary Rudnick will be named into a newly created global position as president and chief operating officer, reporting into Mr. Neale. Mr. Rudnick previously carried the co-CEO title with responsibility for North America. Both changes are effective immediately.

As part of this leadership evolution, Jon Hughes, who has served as international CEO since 2016, will be departing the firm.

“Golin is one of the most admired brands in the public relations sector, for its creative, its talent and its culture,” Polansky said. “I look forward to working with Matt and Gary in their new roles as they and Golin’s leadership team continue to drive off of the momentum we are seeing in the business.” 

Polansky added, “I also want to thank Jon for all of his contributions to Golin’s success over the years, and wish him best for the next chapter in his career.”

Mr. Neale began his career with IPG as a graduate trainee at Weber Shandwick in London in 1997 before moving to Golin in 2005 and has built and managed businesses in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Mr. Rudnick has been with Golin since 1996, in a variety of capacities including managing director roles in Chicago, Dallas and Houston and as North American president.

Fred Cook will continue in his role as Golin’s Chairman, working closely with Vice Chair Ellen Ryan Mardiks on thought leadership and key client relationships

iX Leadership: A Few Quick Tips to Thwart Those Gnarly Culture Killers

Meg Manke, Senior Partner, Rose Group Int’l

“Hello, McFly?!” This quote recited time-and-again by Biff Tannen in the Back to the Future movies floats around our house pretty frequently. And, whenever I’m asked what the magic recipe is for great customer experience, the same thought pops into my head. “Hello, McFly! Don’t you know the answer?!” Of course, people don’t know. As business professionals, we’ve been scratching our heads, whiteboarding, brainstorming and conversing about the age-old question, “How do we provide a healthy, inviting customer experience where satisfaction is king?”

I contemplated this question for many years and studied the behaviors of customers, agents and the like. I thought about my experiences where I called for assistance. “Was I happy with the interaction?” “Did the person on the other end of the line really irk me?” If the interaction was good I thought about how and why that was and did the same for a crummy experience. What did I discover? Turns out, as we’ve known for many years, if a person is nice to you, you have a more pleasant experience and are nice back! While this isn’t rocket science, it’s darn hard for us to grasp as humans. We’re all running to happy hours, dinners, meetings, soccer games, yoga and spinning class. We’re worried about getting our oil changed, adding money to our bus pass, calling to check on parents and siblings and, and, and. Wrapped up in our own lives we forget to account for other’s troubles when we’re processing a conversation.

So, Meg, where are my tips – pretty busy here? How can I use this in my business, department, own career? Here it is folks, the tips and tools we’ll talk about today are The Mad Hatter Principle and non-complimentary behavior. Both of these concepts are found in our (Dr. Rachel MK Headley and myself) new book iX Leadership: Create High Five Cultures and Guide Transformation.

Those mad hatters in the 19th century were marked as lunatics with unmanageable attitudes. Why? Mercuric acid used in the curing process for the felts was ingested by these poor gentlemen and made their relationships with friends and family nearly impossible. Of course, no one knew and just thought these cantankerous jerks were nefarious for….fun? What the Mad Hatter Principle teaches us is to start each conversation by assuming that every person involved has good intent. Even if their behavior doesn’t show us that, we start there. Setting goals helps each person on the team remember why we’re all here so that when a bad day shows up we can bring each other back in and refocus on business. This is the first, quickest and best step to working towards a healthy internal experience is to shake off those assumptions that others have ulterior motives, bad attitudes or wicked intent.

In a podcast called Invisibilia on NPR the hosts take an episode to talk about non-complimentary behavior. The idea is that meeting anger, frustration or general negative emotions with the opposite (positive) emotions makes it impossible for the angry party to maintain, well, anger. Basically, “kill ‘em with kindness” as my grandmother O’Sullivan always said. The untrained reptilian brain cannot maintain a certain set of emotions when met with an opposite set of emotions. So when Jim comes in to a meeting, exasperated by his lack of sleep due to a newborn, smile at him and say, “Hey Jim! How you doin’?” He may at first respond with a snarl or some mumbling about crying babies and bottles needing to be warm but hang in there! Show you understand his plight by sharing a story or asking more questions. Keep smiling, be genuine. Use that Mad Hatter Principle and remember that Jim isn’t mad at you, he’s just having a hard day. Be there for him. That’s what teams are all about after all.

What are we really taking about then? Be NICE! Be SUPPORTIVE! This, of course, doesn’t mean shirk all responsibility, throw accountability out the window and make sure people are all roses and sunshine all the time – we’ll cover all that in another edition of Meg’s real business leadership tips. What it does mean is that, as business professionals, we have an opportunity to create an environment for our work teams that encourages them to be good to customers (internal and external). Supporting each other is the quickest way to combat the invasion of ego and attitude. Using the Mad Hatter Principle and non-complimentary behavior gives us the jump on those gnarly culture-killers. Don’t let culture-killers suck the productivity out of your teams!  Teach your teams to team, high five and kick ass. Invest in your culture, it’ll be the most profitable decision you ever made.

About the Author: Meg Manke, Senior Partner at Rose Group Int’l, is a culture and leadership expert with years of experience leading companies large and small through transition. Drawing from her background in organizational psychology and mastery of leadership concepts, her ability to recognize opportunity in weakness and present a strategic solution is unprecedented in today’s business world. Partnering with Dr. Rachel MK Headley at Rose Group Int’l, they developed their proprietary iX leadership framework which allows business leaders to solve problems within their teams, address generational issues, manage big changes, and accomplish their most ambitious goals. For more information about Meg’s book, iX Leadership: Create High-Five Cultures and Guide Transformation, click here. For more information about Rose Group Int’l, please visit Connect with Meg @meg_manke on Twitter and on LinkedIn.



4 Leadership Lessons To Learn Today

4 Leadership Lessons To Learn TodayDavid Diaz, Director, Davenport Laroche

It’s hard to know what kind of leader you’re going to need to be until you find yourself in a position where it’s time to take charge. You might have an idea of what kind of leader you’d like to be, but as situations evolve and reality unfolds, you might discover that you have more to learn about being an effective leader than you originally thought.

Leaders are defined by their ability to create clear and concise visions of the future, then drive an entire team towards the same picture. Here are four important leadership lessons you should carry with you as you pursue you head into an unpredictable future.

1.     Leadership Is a Choice

Anyone can be promoted into a position of authority, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a leader. Instead, responsibilities and expectations are just tools that are designed to test you as you move through your life. How you respond to these challenges will add to your potential to become an incredible leader, but eventually, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether you’re going to just “respond” to events or inspire them.

Leadership is about making the choice to make a change. While other people can push authority onto you, no-one can make you into a leader but you.

2.     Leaders Aren’t Always Loved

Because leaders are forward-thinking people that need to push the boundaries in an existing environment to enact change, it’s easy for others to dislike them. People, in general are comfortable with the status quo of the way things “are”. When leaders come in to show them what things “could be”, it’s not always easy to make the transformation.

Being a leader isn’t always something that goes together with being popular. If you really want to make the most out of your position of leadership, you might need to prepare yourself to rub a few people the wrong way.

3.     Leadership Is Difficult to Measure

It can be difficult to measure how much of a leader any individual person might be. After all, different people have a different vision of what “leadership” can be. Without a shared definition of what success should mean, it’s hard to determine whether someone is “leading” a positive change, or just pushing people into the wrong space.

4.     Leaders Don’t Work Alone

Finally, as individual as the concept of “leadership” can be, the truth is that most of the best leaders in the world today don’t act as lone-wolf contributors to an idea. The best leaders in any industry must know that extraordinary outcomes don’t come from “I”, but from “we”. Whether you’re starting a new business, pushing a new initiative for a company, or even trying to change the way an industry works, you need to be prepared to work as part of a team, and know when to ask for help. 

How do you define leadership as it pertains to your business environment? Are there are any life-changing experiences that pushed you to be more of a leader in your industry?


Marketing and Leadership: Like “Love And Marriage…”

Marketing and Leadership - Like “Love And Marriage…”


Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

Noted singer Frank Sinatra introduced the song bearing that title in 1955. Its lyrics went on, “…go together like a horse and carriage……you can’t have one without the other.”


Marketing and leadership parallel those lyrics. A marketing manager, as the title implies, manages marketing for an organization. That is their sole responsibility. However, a chief marketing officer usually has a “seat at the table” with other senior staff and possibly board members. They must also balance strategic planning, along with analytical data and finances. The ideal marketing manager has both skill sets.

What Does It Take?

Learn as much as you can about your customers and your target market. This enables you to draft a viable strategy that keeps customers satisfied and loyal to your brand or company. 

By knowing your target market, you’ll be able to respond quickly and effectively to shifting needs and interests. Companies that are able to do this are seen as industry pacesetters and are more likely to increase their market share during times of change.

Stay ahead of competitors by not being afraid to question the status quo. Engage and challenge your staff. Test market innovative ideas and products. Conduct focus groups. Be perceived as the leader in your field.

In addition to fostering teamwork and ideas among your team and within your organization, keep other senior staff advised and updated on your activities. In addition to keeping everyone internally apprised of your work, it’s important to brand yourself outside by networking via social media with your counterparts and marketing groups. Some may be competitors, but they sometimes have ideas you’ve not thought about.

Last but not least, successful marketing leaders motivate their peers. Besides encouraging innovation and new ideas, opening your door and your head to new ideas is refreshing and empowering. It helps by being positive, setting a good example, and paying attention to your own emotional intelligence. 

Doing this will raise the level of teamwork and spirit within the marketing department while also conveying to co-workers that it’s okay to throw out some wild and crazy ideas sometimes. The latter follows today’s popular trend of thought leadership marketing, a subsection of content marketing. It’s yet another way to position your company as a leader and expert in its field. An astute marketing leader understands thought leadership and employs it as an integral element of the company’s inclusive marketing strategy. 

Thought leadership marketing can be invaluable when your target market believes there is a major issue or problem like the frequency of data breaches we read about on a somewhat regular basis these days. It can be very beneficial if and when your competition has a dubious position in your field. It can also propel you to greater recognition as a leader in your industry if you announce a superior way to resolve a pressing issue or problem, or if your studies provide you with a new solution or alternative.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency. He recently presented at Harvard Business School on crisis PR.About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading Public Relations Agency.

Brian Gefter On Leadership

Brian Gefter On Leadership

A simple definition of leadership is the action of leading a group of people. This doesn’t sound complicated, yet anything that involves multiple people is never as simple as it might look. There are a variety of factors that surround what makes a person a good leader. Establishing a clear vision, communicating that vision to others so they want to follow it, providing the method to realize that vision, and managing any conflicting interests that arise are all part of leadership.

A Clear Vision

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore M. Hesburgh

Creating a clear vision is essential for any project in any company at any time. Without a clear final destination, team members will be unsure of their goal and clients may not be confident in the team’s ability to deliver quality content. A focused end target, clearly defined at the beginning, alleviates any confusion or frustration and will help inspire and energize the team to reach the goal.

Communicating the Vision

Having a clear vision and being able to communicate it effectively to your team are two different components to great leadership. Communication is extremely important in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to understanding a client’s needs and then relaying those needs to others. To ensure the goal is fully understood by the team, use everything you can, including words and any visual aids that can help illustrate the vision. Ask the team questions to ensure they fully understand what is needed.

Realize the Vision

How is the team going to achieve this goal? While good leaders don’t micromanage their teams, they do provide a basic plan for reaching the target. A good leader is aware of the skills and limitations of their team, and a well thought out plan will take this into consideration. Flexibility is also required as there are always unknown issues that can arise. A good leader is able to take these in stride and make decisions to keep the project on task.

Managing Conflict

Conflicts can be anything from human resources issues to a technical aspect of a project to a client changing their mind about a design. It can be difficult to prepare for all the potential issues as there is never a way to know them all ahead of time. When conflicts do arise, remember to ask questions. During a conflict, the leader takes the role of mediator which needs a different approach. Questions are effective as they preserve the leader’s neutrality and gets others to pause, reflect, and get clear about the problem. This often leads to a conversation helping those involved to come to a resolution. 

While the definition of leadership is simple, the reality of being a good and effective leader can be complicated.

Utilizing these steps will help remove some of that complexity. Leaders never stop learning how to be more effective, as there is always something to learn when it comes to exhibiting great leadership.

Brian Gefter On Leadership About the Author: Brian Gefter is a leading event marketer.

Selecting the Strongest Leadership Team to Boost Company Success

Selecting the Strongest Leadership Team to Boost Company SuccessRonn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

A leader is only as strong as those around him or her. While it’s a huge accomplishment to be entrusted with a leadership position in any business, what almost matters more is the ability to supplement this with other thoughtful hires. Let’s say a business owner is building a new management team from the ground up. Are there any best practices to follow to ensure success? 

Define Values and Vision Before Hiring Leadership 

Hiring can be a huge headache, particularly when it comes to more senior positions. It’s important to identify what core values a leader should exhibit according to what the business’ goals are. It’s not simply about the experience or education someone has — his or her personality and values must also align with that of the company’s in order to have long-lasting success. 

A business owner seeking to build out a strong management team should start with a blueprint of what sort of roles they would like to see filled. Define the goals and purpose of the company, and find potential hires who will fit the bill for that vision. 

Make Sure the Leadership Team Can Work Together 

Even if a business owner hires the absolute top 5% of each field, this is by no means a guarantee of success. Personalities differ immensely, so finding the right mix is paramount. 

For example, a more stubborn type of personality may not mesh well with an entire group of like-minded individuals. Likewise, a highly data and results-driven individual may not see eye to eye with one who operates more empathetically. 

As Brian Gefter notes with his partner Mike Satsky, “however, a healthy mix of personalities can bring about great results. After all, there is usually more than one (or two!) ways to look at and solve a problem. Having a variety of perspectives can be useful, as long as any conflict is able to be resolved.  So find this out ahead of time. As a leadership team is formed, put them together and test out working environments and project management. Find out how each individual communicates and what makes them “tick”.” 

Stay On Top of the Future 

Many businesses make the mistake of getting too bogged down in the here and now. While it’s important to focus and prioritize, it’s also important to stay on task for growth strategy. Whether the business has three, five, or ten year plan, set milestones and check to see how the leadership team is helping move the needle. 

A leadership team that works well together will be invested in the long-term goal and the lasting impact. Having internal conflict that’s unresolvable will only cause the business and its long-term goals to backslide. Therefore, establishing a strong, capable leadership team is one of the best ways to ensure success. 

And good leadership trickles down to the rest of the workforce in a company. Positive leadership can still be results driven and have high morale in the office. It’s just about positioning and how leadership works with others. For this reason, a leadership team that works as, well, a team, will set a precedent for other workers who can then feed off of this environment. 

5WPR CEO Leads Crisis PR Discussion at Harvard Business SchoolAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of Public Relations Agency 5WPR.

The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership Names Faculty Director and Announces 2019 Schedule

Leslie Grossman at GWUCommPRO Editorial Staff

Leslie Grossman was appointed faculty director of the new Women’s Leadership Program at the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (CEPL).  GW CEPL has scheduled two 3-day women’s leadership programs for 2019:  April 3–5 and October 16-18, both to be held at GWU’s Alexandria, Va. Graduate Center. Grossman’s appointment and the 2019 dates for the executive leadership program was announced by Ina Gjikondi, director of executive education and coaching.

The Women’s Leadership Program at GWU CEPL was introduced October 24, 2018 with a highly interactive 3-day program developed by Grossman. It is designed for women executives in the private and public sectors who aspire to positions of greater influence and impact or have been identified as high-potentials in their organizations. The program provides participants with transformational communication skills, executive presence and guidance for building trust, culture, vision and thought leadership. In addition to Grossman leading the sessions, the program features experts and leaders as guest speakers and panelists.

“Our first women’s leadership program in Fall of last year, under Leslie Grossman’s direction, received accolades from the women leaders attending,” said Gjikondi. “We heard from participants that the transformational nature of the program produced great impact on their confidence and communication skills, and provided solutions to the unique challenges many women leaders face.” Gjikondi added, ” It is clear that women executives benefit from a gender-specific program and that Leslie Grossman was the right choice to lead it.”

Grossman is a senior fellow at GWU CEPL. In that role she leads workshops, including the Step Up to the Mic program, and is an executive coach in the CEPL Leadership Coaching Program. Previously, she founded The Women’s Leadership Exchange, a national conference program for women entrepreneurs and executives. She is the author of two books including “Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections” (Wiley). She is a graduate of The George Washington University Columbia College, attended New York University in Counselor Education and is a certified executive coach by Vistage International.

For more information or to register for the women’s leadership program, go to or contact Ina Gjikondi at and 202-994-5313

Thought Summit

Event Overview

The world is moving fast. Everything you thought was cutting edge now is outdated. How do you keep up? The C-Suite Network Thought Summit is looking forward to the year ahead. The Summit will bring you top speakers focused on equipping you for 2019. Get a deep dive into what’s trending in media, sales, thought leadership and more. The new year is a celebration of new opportunities. Don’t miss it.

The C-Suite Network Thought Summit is your chance to look into the crystal ball and focus on the year ahead. Trends and audiences are changing. Are you ready? This day-long conference will give you the edge you need to take on 2019. Our speakers and panel discussions will prepare any thought leaders, media hosts and authors and their content for what could be a record-setting year.

When: December 5th, 2018 All Day

Where: One World Trade Center, 34th Floor

285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007

Apply Here:

Learn More:


Leadership in Turbulent Times: The Executive Core Qualifications Illustrated by America’s Best Leaders



We are living in complex and uncertain times. We are constantly striving towards success, better performance and getting things done, and yet we are dealing with so much burnout, less satisfaction and lower engagement. According to the most recent Gallup Survey on the State of the American Workplace, only 33% of the US Employees are engaged at work compared to 70%, which we find in the world’s best organizations.

The State of Federal Career Senior Leadership Report administered by the Deloitte Survey Research Center (SRC) in collaboration with the Senior Executives Association (SEA), around the area of transformational leadership, identified that 61% of senior career leaders felt empowered to implement meaningful change, but only 52% of respondents agreed they are able to restructure their areas of responsibility as needed to respond to new ideas.

How might we help navigating change and transitions and yet embrace new ideas and innovation?  What does leadership look like in times like this and how might we create and build a resilient Senior Executive Service? The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership recognizes that not only do organizations need to change, but there are key tactics and strategies leaders can learn to practice and embrace for a thriving workforce.

In this CommPRO Webcast, Leadership in Turbulent Times: The Executive Core Qualifications Illustrated by America’s Best Leaders, you will hear Dr. Jared Peatman share strategies, action and inspiration on how to be on the cutting edge of learning and leading.  Here are the learning highlights he will discuss:

  • Leading People: The story of Civil War commander Joshua Chamberlain and his successful intervention with a bunch of mutineers offers a window to explore employee engagement – one of the most important aspects of leading people.
  • Leading Change: Alice Paul’s campaign to secure the Nineteenth Amendment is a story that brings alive a new model on the three types of people needed to lead change.
  • Building Coalition: Abraham Lincoln’s leadership during the first two years of the Civil War, particularly in the context of moving towards emancipation and the eventual abolition of slavery, offers fascinating practical steps to help build coalitions.
  • Results Driven: The Battle of Gettysburg provides a great way to consider the competency of results driven, particularly allowing us to dive into the sub-competencies of accountability, decisiveness, and problem solving, with models for each.
  • Business Acumen: Lastly, George Washington’s management of his estate at Mount Vernon, including the innovative farming techniques he introduced, offers a unique way to consider business acumen and the related concepts of risk management and the related concepts of risk management and sustainability.

This webcast is in support of GWU’s upcoming 9-Day Residential Senior Leader Program (SLP), on November 7-16 at the Bolger Center in Potomac, MD.  SLP is designed for Federal GS 14-15s and comparable levels in military, state or local government. Our SLP covers the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM’s) Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) and meets the required 80-hour interagency training requirement, focusing specifically on higher-level competencies.  The opportunity allows you to learn more about common and emerging leadership and management issues while developing strategies for effective change.

For more information and to register for the GWU Senior Leader Program program click here.



Ina Gjikondi, PCC, Director, Executive Education & Coaching, The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership

Ina is currently the Director of Executive Education & Coaching at the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. In this capacity she runs the day-to-day operations for the Open Enrollment & Coaching Programs and customized offerings of the government clients, which include leadership development work and executive coaching. In addition, she does outreach and develops new strategic partnerships. Ina is an organizational development professional and an ICF Certified Coach. In her work she integrates a variety of approaches and nuances in leadership development, training design and delivery, inspired and grounded by different schools of thought and wisdom in the world.  She has experience working in multicultural environments and believes in the power of the language as an orientation to life, change and growth. Her experience with leadership development and coaching has been primarily within the public sector with leaders across the organization, both at the federal and the local level. Prior to that Ina worked with various international and local nonprofits in Albania, her home country.

Ina is a Certified Integral Coach from the New Ventures West Coaching School. She holds an MA in Human Resources Development and an MPS in Political Management, both from the George Washington University. She did her BA in Law at the University of Tirana, Albania.

She is fluent in Albanian, English and Italian and has working knowledge of French. She loves working with women groups and especially women entrepreneurs and/or in transition. Her passion is to work individually with people who have openness for learning and are curious. She likes to see herself as an enabler of growth and prosperity.

She envisions a world where people create beauty and sustain safe communities, where the individual is able to live in Henosis (ΕΝΩΣΙΣ), oneness and the society is in full awareness, goodness and gratitude.

Special Guest

Dr. Jared Peatman, Senior Fellow, GW-CEPL, Founder and President of Four Score Consulting, LLC 

A graduate of Gettysburg College with a master’s degree from Virginia Tech and Ph.D. from Texas A&M, Jared Peatman is the founder and president of Four Score Consulting, LLC, a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, and the director of curriculum for the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg.  He provides training events that use history as a metaphor to examine current leadership and performance challenges.

Jared is the author of The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  For that project Jared was named the Organization of American Historians and Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Doctoral Fellow and in 2012 received the Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Prize for the best work on Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War.  He is also the author, with Steven B. Wiley, of A Transformational Journey: Leadership Lessons from Gettysburg.  He is currently working on a book about Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine, and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Jared is certified to deliver the EQ-i2.0 and EQi 360 Emotional Intelligence assessments and holds a certificate in experiential education from the National Society of Experiential Education.


Measuring the Motivators: How Should Organizations Assess Leadership Communication Efforts?

David Murray, Executive Director of the Professional Speechwriters Association

Executive communication is often the most expensive function of a communications department. Ironically, by most measures, it’s also the least strategically focused. The just-released 2016 membership study by the Professional Speechwriters Association (PSA) focused on “intentionality” in executive communication and came to these combined findings, which can only be described as twisted: 

Although two-thirds of professional speechwriters are involved in annual executive communication strategy planning, only 23 percent say that it’s their responsibility to place their leaders at the best forums to reach important audiences. It’s hard to believe, but most speaking opportunities originate not from proactive speaker placement but from incoming invitations. 

Only 41 percent of organizations even attempt to quantify the effectiveness of executive communications, which leaves at least 59 percent of organizations with not the faintest idea of whether they’re spending the right amount, too much, or too little. 

In any case, they’re spending a lot. Speechwriters are the best-paid specialists in most corporate communication departments, some of them making a quarter-million dollars a year and more. And the obscured cost — the cost that doesn’t come out of the communication department’s budget — is time spent by the executive preparing for the speech and traveling to deliver it. A prominent Fortune 100 speechwriter estimates the per-speech cost for his CEO at $60,000, and he thinks that’s being conservative. 

And they’re taking requests over the transom? It’s even worse than that, actually, because a number of speeches every year are given as favors — to the executive’s favorite charity, to an association run by her sorority sister, to a business conference run by his protégé. Imagine an executive trying to justify making an ad buy or an equipment purchase based on that. 

And if corporate communication directors are peeved by the lack of strategic discipline involved in their executive communication operation, they’re not as frustrated as the speechwriters, who want more than anything for their work to amount to something more than a lot of one-off vanity projects. Asked by the PSA survey how the exec comms could contribute more reliably to organizational goals, they fairly shouted:

“If my boss didn’t have a policy of speaking at every event she’s invited to — doesn’t leave a lot of time to be thoughtful and strategic, or to do research.” 

“If we brought some proactive planning to it. There’s very little of that in my company.” 

“If we would execute the strategy and stop being so reactive.” 

“If we integrated across the organization — look at all leaders’ speeches holistically.” 

“If we had fewer messages competing seriously with overarching messages.”

Looking for measurement standards 

Because it is so crowded with egos, executive communication will always run partly based on feelings — of obligation, of fear, of ambition. I have also observed that attempts to pin exec comm efforts strictly to strategic messages and key audiences often wind up generating matrices within matrices within matrices. “This year, Executive A is assigned three main messages under one central theme, which she will deliver to one internal and one external audience per quarter via speeches, monthly via her blog and weekly on Twitter. Now, for Executive B…” 

Measuring the effectiveness of executive communications amounts to little more than “The audience seemed to like it.” Or if you want to drill down to the real bottom line: “The boss seemed pleased.” 

Measurement guru Katie Paine recently spoke at a PSA event and gave the speechwriters her usual rigorous talk, seasoned by three decades of experience quantifying the effectiveness of communication. “Helpful to think about ways to quantify our results,” said one speechwriter afterward, “and also a little scary. Not sure I want to open the door to assessing my speeches based upon the outcome of some initiative or policy debate.” 

Another consultant poured her heart into developing a sophisticated software program that would quantify the effectiveness of a speech based on three dozen criteria. I was there when she presented it to a meeting of exec comm people. Crickets. Who wants to pay good money to find out a speech that went over well was actually a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10? 

Understandable. But then, how should organizations assess leadership communication efforts? How should they tie leadership communication to measurable — or at least describable — objectives? Respondents to the PSA survey said they engage in leadership communication to achieve five primary objectives: to show executives to be thought leaders, to enhance the organization’s reputation, to build the brand, to get media coverage and to engage employees. 

Pretty important goals, those. Too important to base executive communication largely on who happens to invite executives to speak. Too important to not seek some way of knowing whether the program is getting the proper bang for its buck. And certainly too important to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to operating by gut-feel this pricey, labor-intensive and intellectually demanding PR function. Speechwriters shouldn’t view leadership communication as a means of ego gratification, and their bosses shouldn’t view it that way either. 

Speaking of speeches, John F. Kennedy gave one once: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things,” he said, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” 

If a speech can send a man to the moon… 

David Murray is executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association. He is also editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, a monthly magazine that collects the world’s best speeches. 

To Learn more about earning a certificate in measurement and Analytics from PRSA, check out the course description:

Trump’s 100-Day Speech in Harrisburg: Presidential “Leadership” Turned on Its Head

Trump’s 100-Day Speech in Harrisburg: Presidential “Leadership” Turned on Its HeadRichard Levick, Esq., Chairman and CEO, LEVICK

If asked to define “presidential leadership,” most communications professionals would, I suspect, cite such traditional qualities as consistency, thoughtfulness, and the capacity to rise above narrow partisanship. To which the current occupant of the White House, New York native Donald Trump, would snarl: “Fuggedaboutit!”

Restraint and reflection? They’re for losers, Trump has been communicating in word and deed since Inauguration Day.

Trump won the White House by flouting tradition and thumbing his nose at political convention. His Twitter-driven defiance reached full boil Saturday night, when he delivered a red-meat speech to a rabid crowd in Harrisburg, PA.

What made Trump’s Harrisburg moment so remarkable was not its rhetorical content – after all, we’ve heard many times his belligerent attacks against the media and political adversaries – but its timing and optics. It came at the 100-day mark of his administration – a measuring stick that scholars and reporters have used to appraise presidential effectiveness since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fabled first term. During the campaign, in fact, candidate Trump constantly framed his agenda around the 100-day goal, promising to deliver. Bigly.

To be charitable, it hasn’t quite worked the way Trump envisioned. He has been forced to beat a retreat on a host of fronts, from repealing and replacing Obamacare to building a wall on the Mexican border to imposing a Muslim travel ban. Many of his difficulties can be traced to his leadership style, which combines bombast with an erratic fealty to policy proposals, some of which appear to have a shelf life of days, if not hours. One afternoon the Trump White House vows to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The next morning it announces that NAFTA just needs to be reformed, not rejected. If the American public seem confused, imagine how Canada and Mexico must feel.

But Trump’s Harrisburg “speech” was not about substance, it was about show business – with a healthy dose of P.T. Barnum thrown into the mix. The president’s aides knew for weeks that the event would take place directly opposite the White House Correspondents Dinner. They deliberately concocted a split-screen contrast:  Trump revving up his working-class base as Washington and Hollywood elites wined and dined in black tie while making snarky comments about the president. The optics, at least superficially, worked in Trump’s favor – and he and his staff exploited them. Pundits may decry Trump’s absence from the correspondents’ dinner but my guess is that his hard-core supporters – whose disdain for elitism propelled Trump’s rise to power – loved it.

With its nasty skewering of the media, the Harrisburg event may not have embodied the “leadership” that most communications professionals associate with U.S. presidents. But it’s the only form of leadership that Donald Trump, at least at this point in his presidency, knows how to pursue.

Will it work over the long haul? As a veteran of public affairs wars, I can say without hesitation that Trump violates most of the “rules” to which I’ve subscribed for the length of my career.

He has made the media his enemy and branded any coverage he doesn’t like “fake news.” Never get into a public wrestling match with organizations that buy ink by the barrel is one of our industry’s precepts. Another is never let a dispute with a news organization get personal. Trump has thrown both maxims off the Truman Balcony.

Still, every communications professional should have palpitations over Trump’s blame-the-press-at-all-times strategy. When the Forth Estate becomes the enemy, when an American president attacks the media at every turn, our democracy suffers.

In their remarks at the correspondents’ dinner, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two crusading journalists whose investigative work was instrumental in exposing the Watergate scandal, deplored Trump’s contempt for the media. 

Woodward and Bernstein reminded us that Trump may be scoring points with the 40-odd percent of voters who hate the media as much as he does (or at least pretends to), but a strong majority of the country still believes in a free and vigorous press. Most journalists take their responsibilities seriously; they don’t like the president attacking their integrity. Eventually, they will have their day.

Plus, there’s that small matter of reporters writing the first draft of history. Get your victory laps in now, Woodward and Bernstein seemed to be telling Trump. No one outruns the First Amendment. And no amount of optic manipulation and film score music can unmake where history will go.

The system – Congress, the courts, the media, and state and local governments – has so far proven a formidable “check” against Trump. To achieve a legacy of anything beyond divisiveness, he’ll need to school himself in the very things he loathes: civility and the limitations of presidential power. 

A president takes an oath of office to the entire country, not just his base. Trump to date has not shown much interest in reaching out to Democrats, independents, and nervous Republicans.

Whatever that is, it’s not leadership.


About the AuthorRichard Levick, Esq., @richardlevick, is Chairman and CEO of LEVICK, a global communications and public affairs agency specializing in risk, crisis and reputation management. He is a frequent television, radio, online, and print commentator.