Tag Archive for: Leadership

The following is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia published on June 22, 2022 on Commpro.biz

In May the head of the Food and Drug Administration warned that misinformation has become the leading cause of death in the United States.

The January 6 Committee hearings are making clear that misinformation is a leading cause of political division. And that it is a growing threat to American democracy.

In both COVID misinformation and the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen, there is another common factor: People who knew about the misinformation, who saw the consequences of that misinformation playing out, and who may have been able to raise the alarm in time, eventually spoke out. But by then it was too late to prevent the harm.

Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward knew that President Donald Trump understood how dangerous and contagious COVID was and that he was lying about it.

Attorney General Bill Barr knew that Trump’s “Stop the Steal” narrative was, in his own words, “bullshit,” and that Trump was told so. So did many in Trump’s inner circle, whom campaign manager Bill Stepien referred to as “Team Normal,” in contrast to “an apparently inebriated Rudolph Giuliani” and his minions. None of these people spoke out until well after the January 6 attack.

And Trump continued the lies, even to today. And Americans continued to die.

Duty to Warn?

This dynamic raises a moral, ethical, and civic question: When does a public official or public figure have a duty to warn? At what point should civic leaders, public officials, and even engaged citizens sound the alarm when leaders are behaving in ways that put lives and civic order at risk?

For example, on February 7, 2020, before a single American had died of COVID, Trump told Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward that he knew that COVID is airborne, transmitted by breathing, and more deadly than the flu.

This was a turning point moment in the pandemic: a moment when a responsible president would share that news with the American people so that they could begin to understand the risks and take precautions. And a moment to begin a whole-of-government public health response to address those very real risks. But Trump did not. Instead, he lied to the American people about what he and the government knew about the virus. And Americans started to die.

On March 19, 2020, when 265 Americans had died of COVID, Trump repeated to Woodward what he knew about the dangers of COVID, and added that even young people can get it.  In addition, Trump told Woodward that he was intentionally playing down the risks. Trump continued to lie to the American people, and Americans continued to die.

Trump’s firehose of COVID misinformation in the spring and summer of 2020 had at least two effects. First, Trump failed to emphasize the need to take basic public health measures, such as masking, distancing, testing, and contact tracing. Instead, he focused on miracle cures, on discrediting science and scientists, and on disparaging those who challenged him. Second, many of his followers and others believed the misinformation and acted on it, including failure to trust science and scientists. Their belief in the misinformation has persisted well beyond Trump’s presidency to include refusal to get vaccinated or to wear masks.

The World Health Organization has long warned about the dangers of misinformation:

“Misinformation costs lives… Misinformation can circulate and be absorbed very quickly, changing people’s behavior, and potentially leading them to take greater risks. All this makes the pandemic much more severe, harming more people and jeopardizing the reach and sustainability of the global health system.”

Cornell University’s Alliance for Science conducted the first comprehensive study of COVID misinformation. It reviewed more than one million articles with COVID misinformation published in the first six months of the pandemic. It found that Trump was directly quoted in 37 percent of all instances of misinformation. But when the researchers included Trump misinformation that was retold by others, they concluded that he was responsible for fully 50 percent of all misinformation statements about COVID.

The study concluded that Donald Trump was “likely the largest driver of the COVID-19 misinformation ‘infodemic.’”

It further noted that,

“These findings are of significant concern because if people are misled by unscientific and unsubstantiated claims about the disease, they may attempt harmful cures or be less likely to observe official guidance and thus risk spreading the virus.”

We saw just this phenomenon play out in the summer of 2020.

And in all that time, Woodward said nothing.

Then, on August 14, Woodward finally said something. With the launch of his book Rage, Woodward released recordings that revealed what Trump had told him. By then 167,000 Americans had died of COVID; more than one thousand Americans died that day alone. And pandemic response had become thoroughly – and seemingly irreversibly – politicized.

In Rage Woodward asks, “Who was responsible for the failure to warn the American public of the pending pandemic?”

Woodward is right to ask the question. And he should look in the mirror.

From both a moral and ethical perspective, I believe that Woodward shares some culpability here. He knew when the death rate was low that Trump was privately acknowledging the severity of the virus and its form of transmission, but publicly saying the opposite. In doing so, the president was putting American lives at risk. But even as the death rate soared, Woodward kept silent until the release of his book in mid-August.

When does the duty to warn overtake the journalistic convention of storytelling? Or the commercial possibilities of a best-selling book? Before any fatalities? At 256 fatalities, as in mid-March? At 167,000 fatalities, when he launched his book?

Continue reading here.

On Thursday, May 19, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in Forbes on how leaders can ensure they are making the right decision for their organization. Garcia was one of 16 members of the Forbes Coaches Council who offered advice on this subject.

Garcia’s advice to leaders on effective decision-making: Gain Clarity On Criteria And Desired Outcomes

“Leaders, especially those in crisis situations, need to resist the temptation to make choices based on personal preference. Rather, they need to have clarity about the criteria they will use to make such choices, based on desired outcomes,” Garcia explained. “Strong decision criteria and clearly defined desired outcomes create conditions for successful decision making and make a leader habitually strategic.”

Read full article here.

The following is an excerpt of a guest column by Helio Fred Garcia published in the May 2022 issue of PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics

Effective crisis communication can help organizations maintain trust, inspire confidence, and build competitive advantage.

The pandemic, the Great Resignation, political polarization in the United States and war in Europe have made the need for effective crisis communication even greater.

Increasingly PR professionals are being seen not only as communicators, but also as business problem-solvers, who can help their clients navigate the challenges of maintaining the trust of stakeholders in rapidly-changing times where the stakes are increasingly high.

But PR people don’t deserve a seat at the leadership table simply because of our function. We need to earn that seat. And that means we need to elevate our game and become a respected voice when CEOs and other leaders are under stress and worried about their enterprise and their legacy. Take, for example, the common struggle PR people have with lawyers. And how easy it is for CEOs to take lawyers’ well-intentioned advice.

Making the business case

Over more than 40 years I have advised lawyers and been hired through lawyers to advise our mutual clients. I have taught lawyers through bar associations and have trained individual lawyers in crisis management. And I have fought with lawyers; sometimes I have won those fights. And I have learned from lawyers.

A typical interaction is this: In the CEO’s office the lawyer will give all the legal reasons to say as little as possible – ideally nothing – in the early phases of a crisis. The CEO will then look at me.

My reply is not to make the PR case, but to make the business case:

“I believe you have received excellent legal advice. And you should take it seriously. But please recognize that you don’t have a legal problem, at least not yet. You have a business problem. And you need to make a business decision. You need to consider the risk of legal liability seriously. But not exclusively.

You should also consider the consequences of losing the trust of those who matter to you: your employees, customers, investors, regulators, and others. Silence now will be interpreted as indifference, or worse, and will lead to loss of trust of those who matter most to the company. You can protect yourself from legal liability that will play out years from now, but lose the company in the process. Or you can attend to the immediate needs and concerns of your stakeholders now, in ways that manage future legal liability.”

It’s very hard for the lawyers to object to that. But the key is that we need to be in the room in the first place, to make the case directly to the CEO in the lawyer’s presence. Otherwise, the CEO could reflexively take the lawyer’s advice, without considering the short-term implications. And we’d then be tasked with implementing a suboptimal response.

The CEO then typically asks me to advise on what we could say that would pass legal muster. I ask the lawyer about categories of possible communication:

  • Acknowledge: Can we acknowledge awareness of what has happened? The answer is usually Yes, but very carefully. My reply, Great. Let’s do it carefully.
  • Can we express empathy toward those who are affected? The lawyer usually says, Yes, but we need to be careful to not admit blame. Same reply by me:  Great. Let’s do it carefully, in a way that doesn’t admit blame.
  • Can we declare our values? When the lawyers object, I point out that we typically have them published on our website.
  • Can we describe the overall approach we will take to address the crisis and resolve it? The lawyers usually say we need to be very careful. I again reply, Great. Let’s do it carefully.
  • Can we make some kind of commitment? How about a procedural commitment: We’ll update you when we know more. Or a substantive commitment: We’ll get to the bottom of this and fix it.

In essence, when the lawyers say we should say as little as possible or say nothing, they are channeling an unspoken fear that the company’s leaders will say something dumb; something that will not only increase risks in future litigation but also energize adversaries, regulators, and others to come after the company.

I don’t want the company to say something dumb either. But between self-defeating silence and self-destructive blabbering, there’s lots of room to maneuver. This recognition often leads to the lawyers and communicators collaborating early in the crisis to find the balance. It doesn’t need to be adversarial or either-or.

Managing the choices

At a high level of practice, crisis communication is a rigorous process of managing the choices we make with a view on the desired outcome. The discipline is that leaders should never make choices based on personal preference; they usually do so in ways that make them feel less vulnerable that that can infuriate stakeholders.

Rather, we need to have clear criteria on the choices leaders make – of what to do and say, of when to do and say it; of whom to say it to; of who should do the talking. The more rigorous the approach, the more likely we’ll be seen to be business problem-solvers, and to be in the room before decisions are made.

 

Read the full article and more here.

On Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia’s interview on the PR Pace Podcast was released. PR Pace, hosted by Annie Pace Scranton of Pace Public Relations, breaks down each week the biggest news stories through a PR lens.

In their conversation, Garcia discuss how to effectively in a crisis. Garcia describes the work we do at Logos Consulting Group, how we approach our work across industries and around the world, core principles of crisis response, how PR professionals can win a seat at the table, and more.

Listen to the full interview below:

On January 21, 2022, Helio Fred Garcia was featured in an article on Communication Intelligence about a recent webinar Garcia led for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

The webinar, titled “Maintaining and Restoring Trust in Times of Great Change,” focused on the drivers of trust and techniques to maintain and restore trust in times of crisis.

In this interview, Garcia shared some of the core ideas and key takeaways from his webinar on January 20.

“Trust is the natural consequence of three related but distinct factors,” Garcia explained. He then described each of these factors in detail: promises kept, expectations met, and values lived. When you take these drivers of trust seriously, you are more likely to ask the right questions and make smart decisions in a crisis.

Garcia also explained one of the key reasons why organizations and leaders struggle to respond to crises effectively.

“Most failed crises arise when leaders fail to think of the crisis from the perspective of stakeholder expectations, but rather start from their own personal preferences, fears, anxieties, etc. This is the case in celebrated failed crisis response, from Volkswagen to BP to United Airlines to Trump COVID,” Garcia explained. “Making decisions in a crisis from personal preference is a mark of poor leadership and nearly always makes the crisis worse.”

Click here to read the full article.

On September 15, 2021, Logos president Helio Fred Garcia was interviewed by Michael Toebe at Communication Intelligence about what trustworthy leadership confidence looks like.

In their interview, Garcia outlines the ways in which some leaders use confidence to mask something else about the leader. “As with any leadership attribute, confidence is a double-edged sword,” he explained. “Confidence that masks incompetence or malice is often difficult to detect initially, but very often the signs are there.”

Garcia then advised on what to look out for when discerning whether or not a seemingly confident leader is worthy of trust. He noted that the differences between the genuinely confident and trustworthy leader and those leaders who are not trustworthy are self-awareness and humility. “Truly confident and competent people have enough self-awareness and humility to acknowledge when they’ve fallen short, and show how they will do better next time,” he explained.

Read the full interview here.

On August 7, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was quoted in Communication Intelligence Magazine about destructive communication and behaviors in leaders.

The article highlights the recent revelations about Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk in the book Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century by The Wall Street Journal’s Tim Higgins. Higgins’ research uncovered a toxic work culture wherein Elon Musk exploits his power to put fear in assembly-line workers and others in the C-suite.

In the article, Garcia explains how some founders believe that brilliance and energy are enough, and how faulty that assumption can be. “Brilliance and energy are not enough; they’re not sustainable in the long run if they lead to an unhealthy or toxic culture,” he explains.

“The tone of any company is set at the top. And toxicity flows downhill quickly,” Garcia continues. “Add that to the current level of incivility in public life and discourse, and it gets even worse. The mystique of the founder goes only so far. Abusive leaders risk losing the loyalty of their people.”

Read the full article here.

This is an excerpt of a column Logos Advisor Maida K. Zheng published on LinkedIn on May 26, 2021. 

 

This is written for the manager and the employee because both need to be reflective of what immaturity can look like, for different reasons of course.

 

We’ve all heard it before: “leadership is a privilege.” I 100% agree with that sentiment. Although, all too often we promote folks to leadership positions before they are ready — causing issues that didn’t need to happen. Being good at what you do is not enough to be a good, mature leader.

 

The number one sign for spotting an immature leader is observing how they treat their colleagues before they are in a formal leadership position.

 

Ask yourself:

 

Do they regularly belittle their colleagues? Are they only a team player when the boss is there to see? How do they think on their feet? Are they able to improvise and adapt to challenging situations? Do they regularly make excuses for their mistakes but freely take credit for things they did well… even if the credit should be shared?

 

Also, another good indicator is how they treat their current supervisors they may not respect. Do they often behave inappropriately? Do they cause issues and pose questions to simply be disruptive? Are they disrespectful?

 

The questions can go on and on. They are good questions to consider as those are all good indicators that someone may not be ready for a leadership position now. Maybe after training and growth they can be — but they are not ready now.

 

An important thing to look for before promoting someone into a leadership position is adaptability and empathy; a good leader needs both. An immature leader may be excellent at what they do but lack the experience to know how to read a room, which makes their leadership unpredictable at best, toxic at worst.

 

An often overlooked quality of someone who has the potential to lead is vulnerability.  If you are a manager, consider really taking a look at your candidate and observing if they are willing to be vulnerable. (Now, I am not talking about oversharing…that’s a different issue all together.) What I am talking about here is, is your candidate willing to admit they need help from their team? Do they know the importance of apologizing? A lack of vulnerability in a leader often also leads to a lack of good decision-making skills. 

 

It’s no secret that leaders need to be able to make decisions, oftentimes under pressure in the heat of a moment. Management should recognize that someone who throws up a wall and refuses to be vulnerable will either make flippant decisions that harm the team or will pass the blame onto others when they made the wrong decision.

 

Read the full article here.

On April 20, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia shared advice in Carol Roth’s Business Unplugged on how to get psyched for significant business opportunities.

With over 40 years of experience in leadership, Garcia’s advice is “Rehearse & rehearse!”  

“No responsible leader would consider “winging it” when it comes to developing an organization’s budget, product development pipeline or other key areas of their business,” he explained. “Investing time and energy in learning how to communicate effectively, both in terms of how to create persuasive content and how to deliver that content in ways that will grab and keep their audience’s attention, is a surefire way to boost confidence before making a presentation or high stakes engagement.”

Read the full article here.

On March 31, 2021, Logos President Helio Fred Garcia was highlighted in The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations for partaking in Peritus PR’s professional development series, which is designed to help their employees grow as strategic communicators. This Lunch & Learn series featured prominent thought leaders in the public relations and communications industry.

During his session, Garcia discussed the importance of mental readiness in a crisis by teaching lessons from his book The Agony of Decision: Mental Readiness and Leadership in a Crisis to help participants understand some of the core principles of crisis response.

Members of the Peritus PR team shared their biggest takeaways from the session. “Our value as public relations counselors during crises is not measured by the loudest voice in the room or the years of experience under our belt. It’s measured through our mental readiness,” explains Louise Oliver, president of Peritus PR “We can’t ask for a seat at the table when the going gets tough, but we can earn it by being mentally ready to lead in a crisis.”

Read the full article here.