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:



Logos Consulting Group president Helio Fred Garcia was interviewed on CNBC’s Power Lunch on Thursday, May 3, 2018, on the implications of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s intemperate comments on an earnings call with investors the previous day.

In that call, among other things, Mr. Musk responded to an analyst’s question about future capital requirements with the comment,

“Excuse me. Next. Boring bonehead questions are not cool,”

That and similar statements caused Business Insider senior transportation correspondent Matthew DeBord to write,

“I’ve listened to a lot of earnings calls with automakers and more than my fair share of Tesla calls presided over by CEO Elon Musk with a mixture of cheerleading and contempt. On Wednesday night, after Tesla reported its first-quarter results, I was treated to easily the most bizarre Muskian performance yet.”

In the aftermath, CNBC Power Lunch invited Garcia to come on the air and offer an analysis of the leadership issues at play.

He was asked by co-anchor Tyler Mathison whether Mr. Musk should hire a top operational executive.  Garcia replied,

“What we saw yesterday was a symptom of a bigger problem. And that is, a tendency of brilliant people to assume that brilliance is enough, where temperament is a necessary ingredient to being an effective leader.

We see that with many companies that are founded by brilliant people who have an inspiring vision and who create disruptive companies, But there comes a point in the life of the company where that isn’t enough. We are seeing that with Mr. Musk.”

Asked whether we’re at that point with Tesla, Garcia responded,

“We are certainly seeing repetitions of the same symptoms, And the symptoms suggest a temperament that doesn’t take seriously the burdens that a leader needs to undertake to run a complicated company after a certain point.

We saw that, for example, with Mr. Jobs in his first incarnation at Apple. We saw that just last month with Mark Zuckerberg when there was a need for leadership in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal but we got a technocrat. We need a good combination of inspiration and temperament and what we’re seeing now is an over-weighting of the inspiration and brilliance and an under-weighting of the temperament.”

Co-anchor Sara Eisen noted that some investors love Tesla because of Mr. Musk and his vision, and others hate Tesla for lack of attention to important operational issues. She asked, which is more important.  Garcia responded,

“It has to be a blend.  We’re actually seeing the same phenomenon in the political environment as well. Not to talk about politics, but we see the same symptoms. Where we need the right blend of temperament and vision. And one of the challenges with some of the smartest people in the room is they tend to not respect the people whom they consider to less smart than they. As a result we get derisive language toward a stakeholder group that is critically important for the success of the company, be it investors, or employees, or regulators, or others.

And we saw a similar response to a question to the President last week, when he said ‘That’s a stupid question.’ The derision shown to people who have legitimate concerns is what’s going to lead to loss of trust

You can see the whole interview here:

Musk’s temperament not right to be CEO: Expert from CNBC.

In addition to his client work through Logos Consulting Group Garcia is an adjunct professor of management at NYU’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management. He also teaches crisis communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.  He is also an adjunct associate professor in Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, where he teaches crisis management, ethics, and leadership in the Professional Development and Leadership Program.

Garcia is the author most recently of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, available in both paperback and as an e-book from Kindle here.

Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted extensively by major media in the March/April 2018 timeframe about Facebook’s ineffective crisis response regarding Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook users’ data.

The crisis broke Friday evening, March 16, and Facebook’s initial response was muted and legalistic.  Between Friday night and Tuesday morning Facebook stock was down 9 percent, losing more than $50 billion in market value.

Garcia was quoted first by Bloomberg View’s Kara Alaimo. In her piece, titled Facebook’s PR Crisis Is a Mess of Its Own Making – Transparency is the best policy for one simple reason: The truth always comes out,” Alaimo says,

One reason Facebook may have decided to withhold the information for so long is that it was trying to figure out how to prevent such episodes from happening again. However, companies don’t need to resolve a problem fully before they disclose it.


Helio Fred Garcia, president of the Logos Consulting Group and author of “The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis,” says that a company determining how to address a crisis should ask itself this question: “What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization or leader to do when facing this kind of situation?”

She added,

Reasonable people wouldn’t expect a company that just learned that its data has been improperly shared to have developed a full plan within minutes to prevent such a situation from recurring. They would, however, expect the company to be transparent, express remorse, pledge to take action to prevent the problem from happening again, and follow up with an announcement about what it was doing to solve the underlying issue. If Facebook had done this, it wouldn’t be dealing with the mess it’s in today.

Garcia was also interviewed by the Associated Press. In its story titled “Crisis Management: What Not to Do,” appeared initially in The Washington Post.

The AP story says,

The point is to at least make an effort to seem remorseful to win back public trust, experts say. But despite user outcry on its own Facebook page and a call from Congress for Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s role in election-meddling, Facebook seems to be charting its own course.


It’s a pattern Facebook has long followed, said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York. Facebook hedged during its early days in 2007 over a controversial advertising program called Beacon that did not alert users it was sharing their activity, and it did so again in its response to Russian bots hijacking Facebook ad software during the Trump campaign in 2016.


“Facebook has been too late. Facebook has done too little and has been too legalistic’ each time, Garcia said. ‘I have yet to find a crisis Facebook handled that I could stand in front of crisis management classes and say, ‘Here’s an example of how to handle a crisis.’ They’ve never been able to handle a crisis.”


Once Zuckerberg addresses the public, the PR flap may eventually be forgotten. But it will take a lot longer than if the company had addressed public concerns immediately, Garcia said.


“It’s much harder to restore trust once it has been lost than to preserve trust before it has been lost,” he said.

About an hour after the original AP story appeared, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, released his first written public comment. The AP interviewed Garcia for his reaction, and then updated its story to include Mr. Zuckerberg’s statement and Garcia’s comments on it.

“My biggest skepticism is that we’ve seen this play before,” said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York. “They’re caught coming short of customers’ privacy expectations. They tweak procedures. But they  don’t seem to learn from mistakes, don’t really seem to care.”

That night Mr. Zuckerberg made his firs personal public statement, on an exclusive interview on CNN. You can see the entire interview here. The Associated Press asked Garcia to comment on the interview. It reported:

“On Wednesday, the generally reclusive Zuckerberg sat for an interview on CNN and conducted several more with other outlets, addressing reports that Cambridge Analytica purloined the data of more than 50 million Facebook users in order to sway elections. The Trump campaign paid the firm $6 million during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself from Cambridge.


Zuckerberg apologized for a ‘major breach of trust,’ admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect users following Cambridge’s data grab. His mea culpa on cable television came a few hours after he acknowledged his company’s mistakes in a Facebook post, but without saying he was sorry.

‘I am really sorry that happened,’ Zuckerberg said on CNN. Facebook has a ‘responsibility’ to protect its users’ data, he added, noting that if it fails, ‘we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.’

While several experts said Zuckerberg took an important step with the CNN interview, few were convinced that he put the Cambridge issue behind hm. Zuckerberg’s apology, for instance, seemed rushed and pro forma to Helio Fred Garcia, a crisis-management professor at NYU and Columbia University.

‘He didn’t acknowledge the harm or potential harm to the affected users,” Garcia said. “I doubt most people realized he was apologizing.’

The next morning Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News interviewed Garcia and asked him to grade Mr. Zuckerberg’s apology.

Garcia said,

‘The most charitable grade I can give Mr. Zuckerberg for last night’s interview would be a B-minus. But it’s in a context where an A was necessary to get out of the mess that he is in. That interview called for leadership and confidence and commitment. And we got something just short of that.’

Regarding the apology itself, I’m really sorry that this happened, “Garcia said,

‘When I heard that I said, Gosh, I hope that’s the only time we hear Sorry in this interview. Because he didn’t say what he was sorry for, he didn’t say whom he was sorry to, he did not say it in a manner that suggested regret or remorse. He suggested it in a way that he seemed to be getting through it and checking off a box.  Even the word ‘sorry,’ he swallowed the word when he pronounced it. Someone would have been forgiven for not noticing the apology. And he didn’t repeat it later in the interview.’

Asked about testifying before Congress, Mr. Zuckerberg said that he’d testify to Congress if it was the right thing to do, but that his inclination was to send the person at Facebook who had the most detailed knowledge on the topic that Congress wants to speak about. And that if that were him, he’d be happy to testify. Asked what he heard in that statement, Garcia said,

‘I heard an opportunity where a leader is needed and instead we heard from a technocrat. The burden of leadership is to represent the company to those who matter the most… The leader’s duty is to represent the company.  He is speaking as if it’s about an exchange of knowledge, but Congressional testimony is about leadership accountability, and that’s what was missing here.’

Asked about Facebook’s response to the crisis, Garcia said,

‘One of my criticisms of Facebook in general is that we’ve seen this play before. We saw it eleven years ago with their first first big crisis involving a product called Beacon, where the pattern was silence, then, oh, it’s not that bad, and then an apology and then a tweaking of procedure.  We saw it again after the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook for privacy violations. The same pattern: Silence and then acknowledgement and then a kind of apology and then a tweak in procedures. We saw it after the Russian advertising in the American political process scandal last year.


This pattern happens again and again.  I give them credit for saying ‘We got it wrong.’ I give them credit for saying ‘We’ve got to get it right.’ That’s why it gets to a B-minus.  But the idea that 50 million customers had their information compromised and that Facebook knew about it three years ago, and only now commits to notify those who were affected that they may have been affected, that is a failure. It is a failure of leadership and a failure of responsibility.’

You can watch the entire interview here.

The following week, on March 27, Garcia was interviewed live by Canada’s CTV News on what Zuckerberg apparent hesitation to commit to testify before a Senate committee on April 10, two weeks later, but rather offering to send Facebook technical experts instead.  Garcia said,

‘This is a moment that calls for leadership.  But Mr. Zuckerberg is behaving like a technocrat. It is the duty of the CEO to represent the company to all who matter. And a parliamentary hearing, a congressional hearing, calls for a leader to be there, for the boss to be there. Congressional hearings are not about a transfer of knowledge. Congressional hearings are about accountability and and responsibility. Now if Mr. Zuckerberg were to show up with his technical experts, that would be fine. But he seems to be evading an important responsibility of being the CEO.’

Asked what the hesitation could be about and whether Mr. Zuckerberg would be getting counsel from lawyers, Garcia said,

‘I would assume that that’s the case. One of the things we know is that congressional hearings aren’t merely about public policy. They are also about politicians using the bully pulpit of a congressional hearing to show themselves to be tough, and to be tough on companies that are seen to be behaving inappropriately. And can see the human impulse to want to avoid that kind of embarrassment, but that’s the one of the burdens of leadership, to face into the difficult situations.  The idea that he would not appear in front of a congressional committee when his stock has lost already more than $100 billion in value, when customers are worrying about whether Facebook has misappropriated their data, these are all very concerning things and he is not behaving the way a CEO is supposed to behave.’

He was asked whether this is the beginning of the end, and whether the world could continue without Facebook, Garcia replied,

‘The company has made the wrong choice at every turning point since the crisis began. And the crisis began three years ago when they discovered that 50 million customers had their information misappropriated and chose not to notify those customers. They didn’t commit to notifying those customers until a week ago. The company is facing a critical turning point. There was a time when I couldn’t live without Blockbuster Video. That time has passed. There was a time when I couldn’t live without Borders bookstore. That time has passed. And it is completely within the control of the leaders at Facebook whether Facebook remains relevant and trusted. But for that they are going to have to step up in this turning point because if they fail to step up someone will build a better mousetrap and people will move to a different platform.

You can see the entire interview here.

On Sunday, April 1, the Associated Press quoted Garcia on the preparation Mr. Zuckerberg would likely need to do before his scheduled April 11 testimony. As it appeared in Mr. Zuckerberg’s hometown newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, the story quoted and paraphrased Garcia as follows:

“Helio Fred Garcia, who as president of Logos Consulting Group has prepped unnamed banking, pharmaceutical and other executives, said a CEO client of his went through a mock hearing in which someone said very harsh things to rattle him. He was shown video of his expression to make sure he wouldn’t replicate it in front of the Senate. The verdict? ‘He kept his job, so it went fine,’ Garcia said.”

It added,

“CEOs may be used to getting their own way, but they aren’t in control during hearings. Garcia said that can cause them ‘a great deal of distress.’

Zuckerberg has to understand he’s a target and swallow his pride. His job isn’t to try to persuade the senators of anything, but to let senators express their anger.

‘This isn’t an educational forum,’ Garcia said. ‘It’s a highly ritualized piece of theater.’

It continued,

“At the same time, Zuckerberg can’t get too bogged down in technical explanations, Garcia said. A hearing puts the spotlight on leadership and accountability, not technical details. Garcia said Zuckerberg has to ‘speak in leadership terms: ‘This was a massive failure and I apologize.””

April 11, the day of the Senate hearing, Garcia was again quoted by Associated Press.  As appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post, Garcia was quoted assessing Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony as follows:

[The senators] allowed Zuckerberg to repeat his talking points — that Facebook doesn’t own or sell users data, that he and other senior executives weren’t proactive enough with Cambridge Analytica but they’ve changed that, and that using artificial intelligence in elections to stop fake accounts is a top priority.

The result?

“He’s giving the same responses to the same questions from different senators,” said Helio Fred Garcia, a professor of crisis management at NYU and Columbia University in New York.

Zuckerberg seemed often to retreat to three “safe havens,” Garcia said:

One, diffusing responsibility to his “team.”

Two, when pressed on policy issues, agreeing to a principle without committing to details.

And three, never failing in answering questions to start by addressing the questioner as “senator” or “congressman.”

“He’s diligent in showing deference and respect,” Garcia said.

In addition to his client work through Logos Consulting Group Garcia is an adjunct professor of management at NYU’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program, where he teaches crisis management. He also teaches crisis communication in NYU’s School of Professional Studies MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.  He is also an adjunct associate professor in Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, where he teaches crisis management, ethics, and leadership in the Professional Development and Leadership Program.

Garcia is the author most recently of The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis, available in both paperback and as an e-book from Kindle here.

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.

All choices we make have consequences, no matter how big or small the choices are. And the deliberate and proactive management of choice is necessary for good leadership and crisis prevention. But when choices – no matter how seemingly inconsequential – are managed poorly, there can be grave consequences.

This was devastatingly the case on November 5, when a gunman named Devin Kelley entered a small church in Texas and massacred 26 parishioners, including a pregnant woman with her unborn baby, with an assault-style rifle. On November 6, the Air Force admitted that they failed to enter Kelley’s domestic violence court-martial into a federal database for firearms background checks, which would have prohibited him from buying guns.

(Photo source: The New York Times)

In 2012, Kelley violently assaulted his wife and toddler stepson while serving in logistics readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. This charge, under federal law, should have stopped him from legally purchasing the rifle he used in the massacre. An initial Air Force statement issued after the shooting said, “Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations.”

To it’s credit, The Air Force immediately launched an investigation looking into whether other convictions had been improperly left unreported to the federal database. It was discovered that the administrative oversight that allowed Devin Kelley to purchase a gun was not “an isolated incident.” Air Force officials said on November 26 that dozens of other Air Force service members convicted of serious crimes were never reported to the federal gun background-check database, and acknowledged in a statement, “Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.”

This massacre had highlighted an administrative issue of the Air Force, a seemingly inconsequential data entry neglect with dire consequences. The issue escalated a crisis response within the Air Force. Within a month of the massacre, a family who lost eight family members in the church shooting has filed a wrongful-death claim against Secretary of the Air Force, alleging that the Air Force’s negligence allowed the gunman to purchase firearms and “directly caused this horrific tragedy.” While the Air Force did not commit the tragic shootings, it may be liable as an indirect player.

This is not the first time an “indirect player” in a crisis has been accused of culpability. When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and poured oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the then-CEO of BP Tony Hayward responded by saying “this was not our drilling rig… this was not our equipment.” Despite his efforts to cast the blame to Transocean, the owner of the rig, we now know that it was BP’s series of deliberate neglect to safety warnings and skimping on materials that created all the conditions to ultimately lead to the explosion. As the entity licensed to operate the rig, BP failed to meet its legal obligation of assuring its ability to contain a worse-case discharge of oil in the ocean.

(Tony Hayward, photo source: Getty)

The pattern here is that this type of crisis is mostly caused by the third party’s incremental, tiny negligence and mistakes. In contrast to regular two-party crises with a clear causality, such as Wells Fargo’s customer fraud, in the breakout of this type of crisis, the third party is completely caught off guard and unprepared, because it never occurred to them that their trivial missteps would one day center them in a huge crisis and the stakes are this high. The seemingly tiny, innocuous negligence of failing to enter the crimes into the database has, as in the Texas massacre, left the gun background checks impaired, and, consequently, granted Kelley the deadliest means of taking innocent lives.

The danger of committing small errors lies in the mentality that they do not matter. Due to that mentality, people commit even more small mistakes or repeat the old ones again and again. At the same time, those minor mistakes layer on top of each other and, finally, they fall, like the unstoppable dominoes. Unfortunately, in the world of crises, there’s no such thing as tiny mistakes; every detail counts.

With regard to crisis prevention, leaders would be better served simply by thinking about the potential significant consequences small things can lead to. Only in this way, can they hold each one of their choice accountable, no matter how insignificant it might seem.

On Thursday, November 16th, Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership gathered with nearly 50 communication industry guests to celebrate James E. Lukaszewski, “America’s Crisis Guru”®, as he was honored as the inaugural, 2017 recipient of the Logos Institute for Crisis Management & Executive Leadership Outstanding Leader Award.

The Outstanding Leader Award recognizes established industry professionals for their consequential professional achievements that set the aspirational standard for others, and the recipient’s excellence in the use of strategic communication to achieve professional or business objectives with substantial and positive results. Recipients also possess the impressive ability to inspire and empower others through their status as role models, trusted advisors, and visionaries.    

Jim Lukaszewski, President and Chairman of the Board of The Lukaszewski Group Inc., is a highly regarded leader in crisis management and strategic communication. For more than four decades he’s helped senior leaders facing crisis get through challenges with focus, ethics, and decisive action. In addition to being an advisor to those “at the top,” Jim has dedicated much of his career to sharing his wisdom and time with students and young professionals only starting their careers. He remains, in fact, a mentor to Logos President Helio Fred Garcia, and inspired much of what developed to be the Logos Method. With 13 books and hundreds of articles and monographs authored, his mentorship and leadership influence have easily touched many thousands.

(James E. Lukaszewski, 2017 Outstanding Leader Award recipient)

Jim began his illustrious career working as the assistant press secretary to the governor of Minnesota, then as deputy commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Economic Development, before starting his first crisis management firm in 1978 with the help of his wife Barbara; the firm was acquired by a larger PR firm five years later. In 1986, Jim moved to New York to work as a crisis consultant under the tutelage of Chester Burger, a mentee of Edward L. Bernays, also known as the Father of Public Relations. “One of the greatest talents Jim has is that he knows how to listen; that is hard to do when you know the answer,” said Burger ( Barnes, 2009,  Living Legends in Public Relations).

(President of Logos Consulting Group Helio Fred Garcia presenting the award to James E. Lukaszewski)

Ever dedicated to his clients and the industry, Jim served for 22 years on the Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS) and became its first Emeritus member. His list of recognitions is long and the gratitude of clients and mentees is deep.

“The reason I do what I do is simple,” says Jim. “I want to have an important, constructive impact on the lives of people and organizations I help. My ultimate goal in working with other PR professionals or staff members is to help them learn to have happier, successful, and more important and influential lives” ( Barnes, 2009,  Living Legends in Public Relations).

Please join us in honoring Jim for his distinguished service and achievement.

To watch the award ceremony, please click here

Logos Consulting Group is pleased to note that Logos President Helio Fred Garcia has launched a new elective, Advanced Leadership: Crisis Management for Engineers, for graduate students at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, also known as Columbia Engineering.

Garcia has been an adjunct associate professor at Columbia Engineering since the summer of 2017, where he has taught Introduction to Ethics to all 1,400 incoming 2017 graduate students. The pilot for the elective in advanced leadership and crisis management was conducted on November 10, 2017.  More than 140 students, or about ten percent of the student body, enrolled in the course.

The course focuses on the drivers of trust and how engineers can make smart decisions in a crisis by achieving mental readiness: a combination of emotional discipline, deep knowledge, and intellectual rigor. It builds on material that students learned in Garcia’s Introduction to Ethics course.


Case Studies

The Advanced Leadership: Crisis Management for Engineers course features three case studies of crises involving engineering and engineers.

The first, the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion.  BP’s mishandling of what became the nation’s largest environmental disaster cost CEO Tony Hayward his job.

The company suffered significant consequences:

  • BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter and one count of lying to Congress.
  • BP paid $62 billion in fines, penalties, and settlements.
  • BP stock lost $105 billion in value in the months following the explosion, and remains depressed even seven years after the explosion.

The second case study was on General Motors’ handling of problems with the ignition switch in Cobalt and similar model cars that had been implicated in fatal accidents. The problem was discovered in 2001, but, according to an independent investigation in 2014, because engineers failed to fully understand the way the car was designed, GM labeled the issue a “customer inconvenience” rather than a safety defect, and therefore took very little action to resolve it for more than a decade. By 2014, 124 people had been killed, 17 people had suffered catastrophic injury such as multiple amputations or pervasive burns, and 250 others had been hospitalized with major injuries.

The consequences to General Motors were also significant:

  • GM paid $600 million to families of those killed or injured.
  • The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, GM forfeited $900 million.

The third case study focused on Apple’s dispute with the FBI following the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, California. In early 2016 the FBI obtained a court order compelling Apple to design software to allow investigators to unlock a suspect’s iPhone and to overcome the encryption of any data that might be on the phone. Apple refused, saying that such software would make it possible to unlock every iPhone, creating significant safety and security risks for millions of Apple customers around the world. Two days later, Apple CEO Tim Cook received a standing ovation at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

. . . . . . . . .

Logos analyst Holly Helstrom helped Garcia design the course and the case studies, as well as his Introduction to Ethics course and an advanced ethics elective that will launch in December, 2017,

The Crisis Management for Engineers course is offered through Columbia Engineering’s Professional Development and Leadership program, which is intended to help engineering graduate students develop skills that will help them navigate the world of commerce, government, and academia following their course of formal study.

Garcia teaches similar courses in New York University’s Stern School of Business Executive MBA program and in NYU’s MS in Public Relations and Corporate Communication program,  He also teaches similar content as a contract lecturer at Wharton/Penn, both traditional and executive MBA, Philadelphia and San Francisco.  He also teaches as a contract lecturer in several of the professional schools of the U.S. military, including the U.S. Defense Information School, the U.S. Air Force Air War College, and various Professional Military Education programs of the U.S, Marine Corps.