Logos Senior Fellow Anthony Ewing convened the eighth Teaching Business and Human Rights Workshop earlier this month at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. The seventy Workshop participants included individuals teaching “business and human rights” at universities in Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The Workshop was co-hosted by the Global Business and Human Rights Scholars Association.

In 2011, Ewing co-founded the Teaching Business and Human Rights Forum, a unique platform for collaboration among individuals teaching business and human rights worldwide. The Forum has grown to include more than 300 members teaching business and human rights at some 150 institutions in 40 countries.

The Forum’s in-person Teaching Workshops provide an opportunity for teachers to learn from one another and share their experiences in the classroom. This year’s Workshop featured thematic sessions on “Teaching BHR and Environmental Rights,” “Emerging BHR Topics,” and “Current Developments in Tools for Accountability,” and discussions on “Launching a BHR Curriculum” and “Classroom Strategies for Teaching BHR.”

Ewing has taught the course Transnational Business and Human Rights at Columbia University since 2001. In 2019, he launched an advanced seminar – Managing Human Rights –  at Columbia Law School. In the Classroom Strategies session, led by Ewing, he noted that

“We are at the point in the evolution of the discipline in which a comprehensive BHR curriculum would include an introductory course covering core topics, more advanced electives on specific topics, as well as clinical offerings that emphasize experiential learning.”

The Teaching Forum has proven to be a valuable resource promoting BHR education worldwide. More than 140 universities have added BHR courses or content to their curricula in the past decade. The multi-disciplinary subject is now being taught at schools of business, law and policy worldwide. Teaching Forum resources have been especially helpful for professors trying to make the case to their universities for creating new BHR courses, as well as for individuals already teaching the subject seeking to add new topics or teaching materials to their courses.

Ewing also edits the Teaching BHR Handbook (BHRHandbook.org), an online resource for teachers. For more information about the Teaching BHR Forum, visit TeachBHR.org.

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that for the second consecutive year it will host a two-day immersive Master Class on best practices in Crisis Communication.

The Master Class is sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America and will be held in Seattle, Washington on July 18 and 19 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center.

The Master Class faculty are:

  • Helio Fred Garcia, president of Logos Consulting Group and executive director of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.
  • Adam Tiouririne, senior advisor at Logos Consulting Group and senior fellow of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.
  • Holly Helstrom, associate at Logos Consulting Group and a fellow of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership.

This team taught the inaugural PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication in June, 2018 in Chicago.

Helio Fred Garcia in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago

Ten days prior to the Master Class more than 45 people are registered to attend. They work in a range of sectors including higher education, consulting, airlines, healthcare, insurance, municipal and state government, civil rights advocacy, law enforcement, emergency response, and public relations firms.

Adam Tiouririne in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago.

The PRSA Crisis Communication Master Class is a professional development offering that is designed as an in-depth, in-person, two-day immersion in advanced best practices in crisis communication. The in-class instruction, role-play and exercises are structured to help participants master crisis communication best practices through real-world work. This combination can help participants both become strong crisis communicators and also advise their clients and bosses during times of crisis.

The overall agenda includes:

  1. Foundational Principles of Crisis Response
  2. Obtaining Forgiveness
  3. Storytelling in a Crisis
  4. Getting Executive Buy-In
  5. Social Media and the Diffusion of Power
  6. Operational Readiness and Planning
  7. Avoiding Crisis Missteps
  8. Course Wrap-Up, A Path Forward, and Next Steps


Holly Helstrom in the PRSA Master Class in Crisis Communication, June, 2018, in Chicago.

After concluding the PRSA Crisis Communication Master Class, participants can optionally take an online examination to assess their mastery of content.

Participants who participate in the two-day Master Class and successfully complete the post examination will receive a Certificate of Completion. Participants with the APR credential earn 4.0 APR Maintenance Credits for a two-day course.

Participants also receive a Master Class workbook and a copy of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, which was named one of the best crisis management books ever (#2 or 51) by BookAuthority, the world’s leading site for non-fiction recommendations.

Participants will receive a Master Class workbook plus a copy of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis

The cost of the Master Class is $945, or $845 for PRSA members. As of ten days prior to the session there are still a few seats available. You can register by clicking here.
















How humility helped win trust in the case of Bobby Kennedy

America lost one of its greatest leaders on June 5, 1968. Fifty years later, when the current administration is treating politics as a zero-sum game that turns people against each other, this leader and the humility he embodied is missed more than ever – a leader who made joint success possible by bringing out harmony and faith among all and whose humble leadership style is the antidote to today’s toxic political atmosphere.

I studied charisma and humility in my master’s thesis, which looked at how the two factors of the presidential candidates influence the election results. This blog post is the second in a series of blog posts where I analyze how humility functions as a valuable asset for some of the world’s greatest leaders. The first post was on Alibaba’s founder and former CEO Jack Ma. This one is on Bobby Kennedy.

Bobby played a pivotal role in the New Frontier of America, in fighting for civil rights and social justice during a moment of national crisis (the racial violence and the assassinations of his brother JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., and later his own in the 60s). Despite possible presumptions or colorful images people might have upon hearing his last name, Robert F. Kennedy, for many people even to this day, was remembered as a humble and moral leader who has come to embody “the Democratic Party’s lost dream.”

(Robert F. Kennedy campaigns in Detroit, May 1968.  Andrew Sacks—Getty Images)


Trust and Leadership


As of September 11, 2018, president Trump’s average approval rating was 38 percent, according to eight polling entities, down from his previous average approval rating of 41 percent. For comparison’s purpose, the then-president Bill Clinton’s approval ratings in September of 1994 hovered between 39 and 51.

Aside from the dwindling approval polling, the Trump administration has set the record in American modern history for administration turnover, according to NBC news. The result of a New York Times analysis of 21 top White House and cabinet positions back to President Bill Clinton shows how unusual the rampant turnover is through the first 14 months of a presidency.

A more direct demonstration of the deterioration of public trust in the current government is data collected by Pew Research Center since 1958, which shows the public trust plumped from 77 percent in 1964 to 18 percent at the end of 2017, and from 19 percent in October 2015 (the last data collected before Trump took office) to 18 percent at the end of 2017.


Trust is one of the most important measurement tools of leadership effectiveness. A leader without trust is like a ship captain without a helm, unequipped to lead or steer.

The fatal consequences of losing trust can be seen in both business and the political arena. On October 16, 2018, the court approved a settlement between Tesla CEO and chairman Elon Musk and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). Charges of fraud were brought against Musk by the SEC over his “false and misleading tweet” in August, claiming that he had secured the funding of taking Tesla private at $420 per share – a substantial premium to its then trading price. On October 8, following the fraud charges on September 29, Tesla stock closed at the lowest low since March 2017, dropping 66 points since in just a week. Musk will step down as chairman of Tesla within 45 days and pay $20 million in fines from his personal funds.

Aside from hurting a company’s ability to raise capital, loss of trust in leadership can also harm a company’s strategic focus, employee morale and productivity, and demand for the company’s goods or services.

What Elon Musk and President Trump have in common is a lack is of humility, an underrated but transforming quality that helped Bobby Kennedy win the hearts and minds of people with diverse backgrounds. Trust in the Trump administration and for Tesla might have been preserved, if the leaders had possessed a dollop of humility.

Now that the important connection between trust and effective leadership has been established, the ways in which humility helped Bobby Kennedy win trust, and therefore succeed as a leader can be explored.

Bobby and Humility


In my master’s thesis, I define humility as “a virtue allowing people to have an accurate self-assessment and think less of themselves.” People who possess humility demonstrate it in different ways.

For Bobby, the most distinctive way he embodied humility was through his profound compassion, a capacity to listen, recognize and empathize with his fellow human being. “He felt the same empathy for white working men and women that he felt for Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans,” columnist Jack Newfield once observed. “He thought of cops, waitresses, construction workers and firefighters as his people.”

Bobby’s compassion came from the victimhood and discrimination he experienced growing up. Despite coming from the one of the richest families at that time, Bobby and his family were constantly the social outcasts due to their Irish Catholic identities – the reason why they ended up moving out of Boston. As a child, Bobby’s identity was heavily influenced by rejection he experienced from his father. The least favored Kennedy son’s generous and quiet personality was deemed to be a sign of weakness by his father.

Bobby’s older brother John F. Kennedy, affectionately known as Jack, who became the 35th President of the United States, gained a greater appreciation for his little brother around 1950, when he hired Bobby to manage his first Senate campaign. Bobby thereafter played a key role in Jack’s campaigns for the Senate and presidency. Jack charmed people with his big smile and lighthearted personality, while other more unpleasant jobs fell to Bobby. “I don’t have to think about organization. I just show up,” Jack once said. Their partnership worked well.

It was the night of the West Virginia primary of the 1960 election. Jack Kennedy wanted to be somewhere else because he thought he was going to lose. It turned out to be a big win. Bobby, who was seen as the tough brother of Jack throughout the contest, started to forge character of his own. In Charleston, where it had been raining all day, Bobby headed off to the wet streets to offer his respects to the race’s loser, Hubert Humphrey. “Everybody walked backwards, and there was a path from the door to the other side of the room where Hubert and Muriel were standing. I’ll never forget that walk if I live to be a hundred,” Joseph Rauh, a Humphrey supporter recalled. (Chris Matthews, 2017)

Humility also became a defining trait of Bobby’s policy ideas and management style, throughout his time as U.S. attorney general, New York state Senator, and while campaigning for presidency.

In the Justice Department, one of his regular routines was to tour the floors, introducing himself, but also stopping to listen. “He’d ask for only five minutes of their time, but he always wound up staying longer to learn more,” remembered by John Seigenthaler, Bobby’s administrative assistant. It was those small things that made the men and women working for him believe he would always support them as needed. Bobby therefore built a team, loyal to him, and loyal to each other. (Matthews, 2017)

Beginning in 1960, Bobby was one of the earliest Democrats, at that time, who openly supported Martin Luther King Jr. on civil rights movement. His efforts – a call to the Georgia judge to secure Dr. King’s release in 1960 and combating segregations in Birmingham in 1963 – all sent a clear message to the civil right activists that he was on their side. However, his efforts and remarks were met with objections and even humiliations. “I’ve seen you guys stand around and do nothing more than take notes while we’re being beaten,” Jerome Smith, one of the core activists said. Smith also openly declared that he’d never fight for his country. Bobby was furious. Yet with days passing, he found his way to understand. “I guess if I were in his shoes, if I’d gone through what he’s gone through, I might feel differently about this country,” He told one of his loyalists, and went on doing what he believed right – championing for those who were “not yet free.” (Mathews, 2017)

By the time of his run for president, Bobby had already won the hearts and minds of the people he devoted to. He secured 86% of the black vote in the Indiana primary. (LaFeber, 2005) Later, he declared the victory in California primary and addressed his supporter at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, with his last words echoing, “If we believe that we, as Americans, are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us. We must begin to end the disgrace of this other America.”

Bobby also won the trust from those who distrusted or hated the Kennedys at the beginning. “Early on I thought he was just a young rich kid, you know, trying to make to the politics,” says Paul Schrade, who later became a major advisor in Bobby’s presidential campaign. Schrade recalled in a Netflix documentary, “he turned into one of the most sincere persons involved in human values, and trying to do the right thing.”

Humility did not make Bobby any less effective as a strategist, as he always had been for his brother Jack in those back rooms of the White House. It instead helped him in forming his own personality when he had to run for office for himself after Jack’s assassination. The Bobby Kennedy whom people remember was the one who “seemed to carry the whole world’s suffering on him,” and who would give a busboy a firm “two-handed shake”. It was that Bobby whom people connected with, followed, and believed. “He seemed uniquely capable of preaching a message of reconciliation in a country violently torn at the seams in 1968,” commented by Politico Magazine. The MSNBC host and longtime political observer Christ Matthews writes, “what thrilled his supporters and scared the hell out of his opponents was that, they believed he’d do exactly what he said he would do.”

(New York City. 1966. Portrait of Robert KENNEDY in his apartment. Source: Netflix)

Conclusion: Lessons for Leaders


Humility, as well as compassion, embedded in it, fosters trust in leadership by creating an environment where those around them feel safe and motivated to communicate and to contribute, which in return, further strengthens the connections between the leaders and their followers. Additionally, humility helps leaders win trust by demonstrating the genuine gesture to their people that “I’m with you, and your well-being is part of the equation.” On the other hand, according to Forbes, “if they feel that you do what is best for yourself as opposed to what is good for everyone, they will have a hard time trusting you.”

Acuteness, toughness, and tenacity are qualities that come naturally to any successful leader. But these are not enough. Great leaders lead with humility, through which trust is born. Humility urges leaders to check the ego at the door and start to think about people around them. Who are they? What do they need? Are they happy or suffering? Are they taken care of? If those questions cannot be answered, simply start with reaching out and listening.

No leader can accomplish greatness alone. Humility is the competitive advantage for leaders in recognizing their limits and getting others to fight for or with them. Bobby Kennedy eloquently captured this in one of his most remembered address paying tribute to his late brother at the 1964 Democratic convention, which I deem to be a good ending for this article that will hopefully linger within whomever is reading this for a while, “No matter what talent an individual possesses, what energy he might have, no matter how much integrity and honesty he might have, if he is by himself – and particularly a political figure – he can accomplish very little.”

On July 21, Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership fellow Yinnan Shen guest-lectured in an advanced elective crisis communication taught by Logos Institute executive director Helio Fred Garcia, in NYU’s master of science program Public Relations and Corporate Communication.

Yinnan spent 50 minutes sharing with students her research on the neuroscience of emotion and decision-making. She began the discussion by introducing how learning about the people’s emotional forces can be significant in communication and public relations, in terms of changing the public’s feelings, thoughts, and actions.

The lecture covered three parts, first clinical studies conducted by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, second the Somatic Marker Hypothesis proposed by Damasio as a result of the clinical studies, and finally the neuroscience of emotion and how emotion and reasoning work together as an integral system in the decision-making process. Yinnan closed the session by discussing Cola-Cola’s failure of launching New Coke in 1985, and other otherwise successful Coca-Cola campaigns. The case studies served as real-life examples of how neglecting the emotional forces in stakeholder’s decision-making process can cause businesses self-inflicted harm, and at the same time, lose the competitive advantage of harnessing the power of emotion.

Yinnan was one of Helio Fred Garcia’s students in this elective course two years ago. She graduated from the NYU program in May 2017 with her capstone (thesis) exploring How Presidential Candidates’ Charisma and Humility Can Influence the Election Results in America, advised by Helio Fred Garcia.

How humility can work as a competitive advantage for leaders and how neuroscience can be applied to the art of leading and communicating are Yinnan’s top research interests at Logos Institute.

On July 12, Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership executive director Helio Fred Garcia and Institute fellows Adam Tiouririne and Holly Helstrom led a one-day crisis communication boot camp in partnership with the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI).

The boot camp drew investor and public relations professionals from all over the U.S. and from a wide range of industries, including entertainment and aerospace defense. With 12 participants with such varied backgrounds, this lent itself to a day full of enriched discussion and debate.

The session began with participants being asked to reflect on their learning objectives for the day, as well as their greatest concerns respective to their organizations’ crisis preparedness. From there, Helio Fred Garcia covered the essential principles of effective crisis response, as well as case studies that bring these principles to life, including the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and United Airlines/Dr. Dao crisis. Adam went on to explain the significant connections between language and emotional response and led the group through an in-class exercise where they got to develop crisis response plans for their respective organizations. Holly finished up the day covering the importance of striking the appropriate tone in crisis communication, especially when dealing with social media-related crises.

The participants walked away with fresh perspectives on what a crisis actually is, a deeper understanding of the rigor essential to effective crisis response, and greater confidence in their abilities to plan for and respond effectively to crises. Logos Institute also shared at the end of the session many best practices tools and templates for participants to download for free on logosconsulting.net. The tools are systematizations of best practices that created by Logos Institute from years of academic study and real-world practices.

NIRI is the largest investor relations association in the world with more than 3,300 members worldwide; it is a professional association for corporate officers and investor relations consultants who are responsible for communication among corporate management, shareholders, securities analysts and other constituents within the financial community.

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership stands at the intersection of scholarship and practice, providing both rigorous analysis and practical application of key crisis principles.

The Agony of Decision, written by Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership executive director Helio Fred Garcia, recently received recognition for being one of the “51 Best Crisis Management Books of All Time” by Book Authority, the leading resource for nonfiction book recommendations. The Agony of Decision earned the number two spot on the list of 51 books.

Image Source: Book Authority

Book Authority ratings are calculated using a sophisticated algorithm, taking into account signals such as:

  • Public mentions of the book
  • Recommendations, ratings and reviews
  • Analyzing user behavior and sentiment
  • Sales history and velocity
  • Book age, information and editions

Book Authority has been featured on CNN, Forbes, and Inc. and serves millions of book recommendations monthly.


Additionally, Book Authority awarded The Agony of Decision   a badge of recognition for being one of the Best New Crisis Management Books of 2018.

The Agony of Decision is available as in both paperback and Kindle e-book editions, here.

Image source: Twitter


Logos Institute For Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press

The Agony of Decision is the first book published under the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership Press imprint as well as the first book in the Logos Institute Best Practices Series.

The series provides conceptual frameworks that help make sense of complicated issues by incorporating case studies, actionable tools, tips, and techniques that help leaders make smart choices and build competitive advantage when it matters most.

The Agony of Decision is about the specific ability leaders need in order to maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis. This ability is mental readiness which comprises 1) emotional discipline, or the self-control needed to execute necessary but difficult choices, 2) deep knowledge, or an understanding of the patterns that show what works and what doesn’t work in a crisis, and 3) intellectual rigor, or the ability to make smart choices by asking the right questions at the right time.

Since the book’s publication in July 2017, Garcia has spoken with more than 15 organizations and their leaders about The Agony of Decision and the valuable lessons within its pages. Some of these organizations include New York University’s Stern School of Business, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, U.S. Defense Information School, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and National Investor Relations Institute, Public Relations Society of America. Garcia has also discussed concepts from The Agony of Decision in interviews with NASDAQ, CNBC’s Power Lunch, Canada Television News, Canada’s CBC News, and on the five-star rated podcast Women Worldwide aired on C-Suite Radio.

Logos Institute Thought Leadership

Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership stands at the intersection of scholarship and practice, providing rigorous analysis and practical application of key leadership principles.

Institute fellows publish their insights on the Logos Institute blog in addition to pursuing thought leadership avenues beyond the Institute and its publishing imprint. All Logos Institute fellows teach at leading graduate, law, and professional schools, either as members of the faculty or as regularly-scheduled guest speakers.

Adam Tiouririne served as the language analyst for Bloomberg Politics’ coverage of the 2016 U.S. presidential election; from the first primary debates to the convention speeches and inauguration day, he analyzed candidates’ every word for millions of readers worldwide. Kristin Johnson, who spent nearly a decade in escalating roles of global PR agencies before joining Logos Consulting Group, is the co-author of a forthcoming book to be published by Routledge that demystifies the PR agency experience to help those new to the PR industry grow in their careers and as leaders.

Garcia also has a forthcoming book he is co-authoring with John Doorley, the fourth edition of Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication. The fourth edition will feature contributions from Johnson and Logos Institute fellow Holly Helstrom.

Garcia is also the author of The Power of Communication, published in 2012 by Pearson. The book builds on the U.S. Marine Corps’ legendary publication Warfighting, and shows how to apply the Corps’ proven leadership and strategy doctrine to all forms of public communication — and achieve truly extraordinary results.

Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia was a guest on the June 1, 2018 Women Worldwide Podcast hosted by Deirdre Breakenridge. The podcast is also broadcast on the C-Suite Radio Network.

Deirdre Breakenridge, host of Women Worldwide

Breakenridge is the CEO of Pure Performance Communications and the Author of Answers for Modern Communicators: A Guide to Effective Business Communication.

After more than 25 years of mentoring women and professionals in business and communications, Deirdre Breakenridge, an author, speaker, and consultant, launched her podcast, Women Worldwide, on C-Suite Radio to give women, and some men, a voice and platform to discuss their challenging yet rewarding career journeys. Interviewed by Breakenridge, women and men around the globe share their incredible stories; those who have experienced the heights of success and at times, the agony of defeat. With a vision to impart wisdom and to help people to soar to new heights, Women Worldwide uncovers different perspectives and ways for C-Suite listeners to find their inner strength.


The interview began with Breakenridge asking Garcia to share his journey as an immigrant to the United States.  Garcia responded,

I guess my journey is what you might call a typical American immigrant journey. I got to this country from Brazil when I was six. I actually arrived one week before first grade. And I didn’t speak a word of English… My first day of school I couldn’t understand what was going on and the teachers just concluded that I was dumb. Because of my appearance — I have fair skin and blue eyes and then had blonde hair — they didn’t see me as the typical Latin American immigrant. They just assumed that I was a dumb kid.”

Garcia described how he was essentially ignored by his teachers for the first five years of school.

“But in sixth grade a very special teacher took me aside on the first day and asked me a bunch of questions. And I have a vivid memory of her just smiling and beaming and her her chin lifting up to the sky and she let out a deep breath and said, ‘My son, you’re not stupid. You don’t speak English. And she realized that for five years I hadn’t failed in school; the school had failed me. And she made me her project.”

Garcia then described how that teacher had kept him after school for 90 minutes every day for a full year.

“We caught up with all the English I hadn’t learned and she had me begin to memorize public documents– the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address.  She had me speak in the front of the room. She had me do elocution. She had me recite so that every syllable could be heard in the back of the room. She had me put marbles in my mouth and do it again so she could hear every syllable. And by the end of that year I was not only caught up, I was way ahead of my classmates.”

After Garcia recounted his personal journey, Breakenridge shifted the discussion to issues arising from Garcia’s latest book, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis.

You can hear the entire interview here:



How humility works as a leadership strength in the case of Jack Ma

Leaders in business and politics continue to pay high prices for arrogance. Just one example is the Trump administration, which has suffered from chaos and trust issues due in part to the high turnover rate of White House cabinet members, arguably a result from a president who’s not willing to listen. An antidote to that is humility, which has become an increasingly powerful competitive advantage for those who recognize and capture its value. Humility deserves a fairer evaluation in order to better serve leaders and organizations, as for too long it has been considered a vulnerability in leadership.

I studied charisma and humility in my master’s thesis on How These Characteristics of Presidential Candidates Influence Presidential Election and Retention in America. This blog is the first in a series of blogs where I will analyze how humility functions as a valuable asset for some of the greatest leaders worldwide, starting with Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Alibaba Group.


September 2009, on Alibaba’s 10th anniversary celebration in Hangzhou, China, the company had grown into a team that filled 16,000 seats of the Yellow Dragon Stadium. The audience was full of cheers and applause when Jack Ma took the stage in a leather outfit, long white wig, and a wild-colored lipstick. Unlike other typical billionaire CEOs on this important night, Jack started to sing, like a ludicrous punk from the 70s. People outside of the company assumed him to be crazy and weird, but it wasn’t surprising at all for his employees; that was exactly their Jack, a guy they joke with everyday who just happens to be their boss.

(Jack Ma (center), together with his managers perform at the firm’s 10th anniversary celebration)

Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, has become one of the richest men in the world with a net worth of $46.9 billion. In the past 19 years, the e-commerce conglomerate has won a war with eBay in China, made the biggest IPO in the history of NYSE, and become one of the world’s largest technology companies and the world’s largest retail platform in terms of revenue. Jack was also ranked second in Fortune‘s 2017 “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list.

Jack’s success as an entrepreneur and a leader can be credited to his judgement, strong will, and courage, but most importantly, to his distinctive charisma blended with humility that draws brilliant people to him and keeps them with him. His selflessness and genuine care for others are defining traits of his leadership. And this particular leadership style draws followers by crystallizing a mindset in them –  that is “I have faith in this person, and I want to be part of what he/she is doing.”

Humility & Leadership: How Jack Ma Does It

Let us first take a look at the humility embodied in the leadership style of Jack Ma, before analyzing how humility functions as a leadership competitive advantage using the example of Jack.

Jack came from a humble beginning. He started his career back in 1995 in his hometown Hangzhou, working as an English teacher making $12 USD a month. After his first trip to the U.S., where he was introduced to the Internet, he built the first Chinese internet company called “China Pages,” an English-language directory for Chinese companies and information, in the hope of attracting business and visitors overseas to China. While he failed to convince the Chinese government to corporate with China Pages on providing information, he realized how important it was for China to enter the international market before it was too late. “It doesn’t matter if I failed; at least I passed a concept to others. Even if I don’t succeed, someone will succeed one day,” he said in 1995 in a documentary.

In 1999, Jack took another shot at an internet idea. When the tide of the Internet finally came, he saw an opportunity to help small businesses in China sell more products domestically and globally. He founded Alibaba with 17 other people in his apartment. It often puzzles people how Jack convinced his co-founders to embrace such an audacious, unthinkable idea back in 1999 in China, and to be willingly led by a person with no money, no computer background or any government relations. A deeper dive in his personality and leadership style resolves the puzzlement.

(Jack and some early members of Alibaba)

Interestingly, Jack himself is never the center of his dreams, ambitions, or even thinking process. It’s always about doing good to his home country and empowering other people. A constant message Jack sends to his employees is that what they do is “making it easier to do business across the world,” and that this ease brings positive change that ripples through society. In a letter he sent to “Ali people” after the company’s IPO, he crowned their success to the reform and opening of China, and to the fortune of living in the era of the internet. He did not, however, applaud himself.

This egolessness and self-forgetfulness seems almost idiosyncratic in his level of accomplishment. However, this self-forgetfulness is paradoxically what has made Jack so successful as a leader.

Another remarkable aspect of Jack’s humility is a great level of empathy and genuine care for people. Jean Liu, the president of Didi Chuxing, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, and a longtime friend of Jack, learned from family friends that Jack repetitively visited a seamstress, whom he gets his clothes tailored by, after learning she was ill. “He genuinely cares about the people around him, ” Liu says.

After choosing to step down as Alibaba’s CEO in 2013, Jack devoted himself to advocating for causes related to the environment, health care, women’s empowerment, and education. He became the chairman of the board for The Nature Conservancy’s China Program, has hosted the annual Alibaba Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship, and has donated personal wealth to hospitals and schools in rural areas.

(Jack speaking at 2017 Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship)

How Humility Works

Since humility is a broad personality trait that is open to various interpretation, there are many ways to demonstrate it. In my master’s thesis, I defined humility as “a virtue allowing people to have an accurate self-assessment and think less of themselves.” I also created a five-item scale to measure humility; they are openness, tolerance and forgiveness, an accurate self-assessment, self-forgetfulness, and being highly secure.

Management expert Ken Blanchard says: “People with humility do not think less of themselves; they just think about themselves less.” (Dasa, 2014) JP Tangney also defines humility in her 2000 work, Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research, as “a relatively low self-focus, a ‘forgetting of the self,’ while recognizing that one is but one part of the larger universe.” The two definitions depict Jack’s humility best.

Jack has a very distinctive way of embodying humility. His most noteworthy aspects of humility are selflessness and genuine care, which are also the aspects of humility the article focuses on.

This type of humility serves as a leadership strength in two ways: first in creating a sense of inclusion (for existing employees), or a predilection to be included (for indirect stakeholders or even general public). Second, it inspires trust and loyalty.

A Harvard Business Review survey conducted globally among 1,500 workers found that “when employees observed altruistic or selfless behavior in their managers…they were more likely to report feeling included in their work teams,” and what’s more, “they were more likely to report engaging in team citizenship behavior, going beyond the call of duty, picking up the slack for an absent colleague.”

In Jack’s case, he is able to direct his ego away from himself in order to lead the company to a greater good, in benefiting both stakeholders and humanity at large. It makes it possible to instill a bigger-than-oneself sense of mission in his employees and cultivate a strong morale of championing for a shared cause.

With this type of humility, leaders are also able to inspire trust and loyalty by demonstrating genuine care and compassion.

Trust and loyalty don’t come naturally with a title; they have to be earned. According to an article published in Forbes, one important factor in earning trust is compassion; “People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.”  President of Logos Consulting Group Helio Fred Garcia said in a Columbia Leadership Course that followers tend to describe a great leader in three ways, one being a sense of protection and affection from that leader. The other two are an identification that they have something in common and a sense of that person is further along in capacity than they are.

When it comes to Jack, humility enables Jack not only to care for his people, but also to abandon the autocratic management style that he grew up with in China and to be open to different opinions and feedback. In an article in 2015 in the peer reviewed journal Global Journal of Management and Business Research, Chanttel Tham Jo Ee analyzed Alibaba’s management style stating that Jack’s style is highly advantageous in terms of “engendering loyalty from the employees, and leading to a lower labor turnover.” When people feel well taken care of and that their feelings, contributions, and opinions matter, trust and loyalty in leadership are natural outcomes.



Through a thorough study of charisma and humility in my thesis, I concluded that a prophetic vision is one of the attributes that make a leader charismatic. Nevertheless, vision itself is not enough. Humility lends credibility and persuasiveness to that vision, as well as to that leader.

One of the key factors that contributes to Jack’s success is his sincerity and trustworthiness, and consequently his ability to make others believe his idea. Even with President Trump, who is all about “America first” and anti-globalization, Jack was able to sell a China-U.S. e-commerce partnership proposal. It is his humility that makes his vision so convincing that the idea of fighting with him or under his lead so irresistible.

That is how humility sparkles in leadership.

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to announce that it has authored a brief e-book on best practices in crisis communication for public relations professionals that was published by the media monitoring firm Critical Mention.

The e-book is part of Critical Mention’s series on Resources for Public Relations Professionals. Critical Mention has been a key resource for professional communicators since 2002, providing near real-time media monitoring across online, social media, radio and broadcast coverage to help professionals excel at what they do. Professional development has become part of Critical Mention’s mission.

Chris Cunniffe, Digital Marketing Director at Critical Mention notes, “We aim to provide relevant content to encourage career growth for our customers. Plus, we help them identify and measure their success—because their success is our success.”

The Primer on Crisis Communication for PR Professionals is an adaptation of the book The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis by Logos president Helio Fred Garcia.

Garcia said, “I applaud Critical Mention for its commitment to professional development of its customers. Logos is also committed to helping leaders in all fields plus those who advise them, including public relations professionals, to be more effective with their communication strategy. We welcome the opportunity to share our insights in this new forum.”

The primer is available for download free of charge here.

The Agony of Decision is about how leaders and the organizations they lead can maintain reputation, trust, confidence, financial and operational strength, and competitive advantage in a crisis. It is written for leaders across sectors and at all levels of leadership, including those who advise those leaders, whether in public relations, law, or other business disciplines. The primer will support these leaders in three ways: 1) help them understand the dynamics of crises; 2) help them to make smart decisions in a timely way; 3) support the stewardship of reputation management, trust building, and the advancement of competitive advantage.

The Agony of Decision has been adopted in graduate level crisis courses in the NYU M.S, in Public Relations and Corporate Communication program and Executive MBA program, and is also being used in a number of other universities and at schools affiliated with the U.S. military. The book is the first installment of the Logos Institute Best Practices Series.


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2017 is a year defined by arrogance.

Arrogance in national affairs, as the president and his senior staff persistently refused to acknowledge any facts that failed to align with their world view, and attacked those who dissented as purveyors of “fake news.”

Arrogance in business, as we saw Pepsi mishandle an ad alluding to the Black Lives Matter movement, and then be surprised by the backlash before pulling the ad. And then it bungled its apology, in a remarkable display of victim confusion, by apologizing to the ad’s star, reality TV personality Kendall Jenner.

And arrogance as United Airlines’ CEO failed initially to express empathy for a passenger who had been assaulted and severely injured by Chicago Aviation Authority security officers removing him from a plane.

Whisper Networks No More

And we have begun to see the consequences of arrogance in professional relationships, particularly the sexual entitlement of powerful men toward others in subordinate positions. This was brought to the fore initially by a New York Times expose in October of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s decades of systematic sexual abuse. The sexual misconduct of dozens more prominent men in entertainment, politics, business and journalism was revealed in the weeks following. The year ended with news that a two-star U.S. Army general had his nomination for a third star withdrawn as a consequence of treating a female congressional staffer disrespectfully in October.

The year saw backlash to this pervasive arrogance of male leaders in the form of the #metoo movement, a hashtag used on social media by victims of sexual misconduct to empower each other to stand up to their abusers, and find solace in their shared experiences. Just about every woman I know has disclosed that at least once in her life she has been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment, at work or otherwise. Time magazine put some of the women who came forward, whom it dubbed “The Silence Breakers” on its cover as 2017 person of the year.

What these various crises and scandals have in common is a particularly pernicious form of arrogance: a sense of entitlement; an inability to see others as worthy of respect and dignity; a failure of empathy. But mostly they reveal a lack of humility.

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 in  2018, the best leaders will exhibit humility; the best-handled crises will be 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 metaphor 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 military.com, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, was addressing troops in Afghanistan just before Christmas.

U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General Robert B. Neller

He told of the time 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. 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.

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.

As we begin 2018, we can look for and notice examples of effective and ineffective leadership and crisis response. My prediction: Humility will mark the best leaders and the best handled crises.

Happy New Year!

Note: The principle of humility as a leadership discipline is covered more deeply in my latest book, The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis.