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Dr. Thomas D. Zweifel

travels from Switzerland

Consultant, Author and Leadership Professor

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For 25+ years, keynote speaker Thomas D. Zweifel has developed leadership tools and methodologies for Fortune 500 companies. The former CEO of Swiss Consulting Group, Thomas D. Zweifel says that soft skills (co-leadership, communication, crosscultural savvy) are the key to hard results. Dr. Zweifel’s stories and tools give people access to being global leaders in the 21st century.

Thomas D. Zweifel is a Consultant at Insigniam Performance, author and leadership professor. He inspires audiences with a unique blend of cutting-edge leadership theory, international affairs, management tools, executive coaching, and timeless philosophy—an interdisciplinary approach sorely missing in this era of specialists who don’t connect the dots.

Dr. Zweifel shows leaders how to:

Maximize ownership of strategy and minimize pushback to change
Be a great communicator who gets results through effective speaking and listening
Be a global leader who manages skillfully across cultures and avoids costly clashes
Unleash people power for performance
Turn breakdowns into breakthroughs


25 Years of Leadership Experience

Born in Paris, Dr. Zweifel was educated in Switzerland, Germany and the United States, and is fluent in English, German, French, and Italian. He holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in International Political Economy from New York University. In 1986 Dr. Zweifel was thrust into leadership as global campaign manager for an international organization on the roster of the United Nations. In charge of campaign results in 27 countries but lacking legal authority to impose decisions or hire/fire people, he was forced to become a master at remote coaching and cross-cultural leadership.

In 1997 Dr. Zweifel co-founded Swiss Consulting Group, a global performance management company based in New York City that was recognized as a “Fast Company” by Fast Company magazine. Since then, Dr. Zweifel has coached and trained business leaders and public servants to create and achieve their vision, and has built Swiss Consulting Group into a multinational virtual boutique company with consultants in 12 countries and clients around the globe.

Dr. Zweifel is a member of the International Coach Federation and the Association of Professional Communication Consultants. In 1996 he realized his dream of breaking three hours in the New York City Marathon, and in 1997 was recognized as the “fastest CEO in the New York City Marathon” by the Wall Street Journal.

See keynotes with Dr. Thomas D. Zweifel

    Keynote by Speaker Thomas D. Zweifel

    21st Century Leadership (2-4 hours):

    Although still dominating our thinking and actions, traditional leadership approaches no longer work in today’s complex global markets. In an age of democratization, flattening hierarchies and virtual teams, leaders emerge in all walks of life and require a transformation of management: the mindset of command-and-control is simply too cumbersome and bureaucratic. But management practice has mostly failed to catch up, let alone to capitalize on the new landscape. It seems as though our behaviors were still dictated by old myths – and the costs and lost opportunities are enormous. Dr. Zweifel suggests a new leadership model he calls the “3 C’s”:

    • Co-Leadership—not ordering people around but being their co-creative partner in their ongoing leadership development and their ownership of the organization’s challenges and strategies.
    • Communication—being a masterful communicator who eliminates wasteful, past-based chatter like complaints or excuses, and who leads by speaking and listening effectively.
    • Cross-Cultural strategy—being a global citizen who masters outsourcing, virtual teams and remote empowerment, and can parachute into any culture and get the job done while respecting the target culture’s values.

    In individual, paired, and group processes, participants learn and practice 21st-century leadership tools along the Global Leader Pyramid™ (Self-Awareness, Relationship, Vision, Strategy, Action).


    Keynote by Speaker Thomas D. Zweifel

    The Rabbi & the CEO: The 10 Commandments for 21st-Century Leaders (4-8 hours):

    • Leadership is in crisis—from business to government, from religious institutions to the UN, leaders have lost their compass. And in the rough seas of a borderless economy, the Internet, and outsourcing, a seismic shift has changed the game: Virtually anyone can lead now. But how do you breed principled leaders?
    • Is leadership a matter of DNA, culture, or coaching? The answer comes from an improbable source: the 3,000-year-old tradition of Judaism. Torah, Talmud, and Kabbalah hold life-and-death leadership challenges, including stories of insurmountable odds, ethical dilemmas, lust and betrayal, and offer astonishingly practical lessons for 21st-century managers.
    • In a unique synergy, Dr. Zweifel has teamed up with Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin, dynamic Jewish leader and author of Letters of Light, to blend the timeless wisdom of the Ten Commandments with a cutting-edge methodology based on twenty-five years of coaching leaders—a mix that provides innovative tools and techniques for lasting success.
    • This multi-disciplinary, entertaining and action-packed workshop builds on Dr. Zweifel and Rabbi Raskin’s acclaimed new book The Rabbi and the CEO: The Ten Commandments for 21st Century Leaders (SelectBooks 2008) and offers leaders a kind of power all too often missing in boardrooms.
    • Standing in the rich, over 3,000-year-old tradition of Jewish thought, it makes the timeless wisdom of the ages and sages directly relevant to today’s business leaders.


    Keynote by Speaker Thomas D. Zweifel

    Strategy-In-Action: A Dynamic 7-Step Process for Breakthrough Design and Results (4-8 hours):

    • Most organizations have a strategy. Many strategies fail. Why? Because of a divorce between the strategy designers who build the strategy behind closed doors, and the implementers who never truly own the strategy. W
    • hat is missing is an approach that bridges the gulf between strategy formulation and execution.
    • Strategy-In-Action is a systematic, evolutionary and dynamic seven-step process that aligns people on a strategic intent, gets immediate results through targeted catalytic projects, and feeds the learnings back into the strategy to galvanize further strategic action.
    • Strategy-In-Action has worked in various organizational settings in the private, nonprofit and public sectors – from Haiti to Hamburg.


    Keynote by Speaker Thomas D. Zweifel

    Culture Clash: Managing the Global High-Performance Team (2-4 hours):

    • Globalization cannot be stopped; we must adapt and learn how to be global citizens. But few leaders are prepared for working across borders, and the costs of cultural blindspots in mergers, outsourcing and virtual teams can be immense – from lawsuits to lost opportunities.
    • Through entertaining and insightful case studies and interactive processes, Dr. Zweifel challenges participants’ assumptions about their own and their colleagues’ cultures.
    • He introduces you to key intercultural competencies and tools it takes to manage across cultures anywhere in the world, for example how to orchestrate effective global meetings or videoconferences; how to decode any culture with the Global Integrator™; and how to navigate the rough seas of global markets with the Global Leadership Pyramid™.


    Keynote by Speaker Thomas D. Zweifel

    Communicate or Die: Getting Results Through Speaking and Listening (2-4 hours):

    • Often leaders have a great vision, but cannot communicate it effectively, inspire their people, or turn their vision into results.
    • Just as often, an organization’s staff has insight and information that never makes its way to the top.
    • The difference between a good company and a great one may lie in their ability to communicate.
    • Through fascinating stories and interactive processes, Dr. Zweifel tells often hilarious stories of failed communication and provides tools and techniques for how to cut out wasteful communication and how to listen effectively—perhaps the smartest investment in productivity.
    • Avoid the Four Deadly Sins of Speaking, and climb the Matterhorn of Masterful Listening™.

Interview with Thomas D. Zweifel

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

The most recent financial crisis was at bottom  not economic, but a crisis of leadership. It has shown once again that a radical rethinking is needed to deal with 21st-century challenges like globalization, innovation or strategy alignment.

There are more than 72,000 leadership books on Amazon.com. Traditional leadership theories tend to describe or explain leadership, but they fail to give true access to

what it means to lead. I have found a methodology that makes leadership accessible to managers, regardless of whether they have money or the corner office. In short, I call it Leading Through Language.

Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?

When I gave a keynote for the U.S. State Department, the program officer said afterwards: ¨His greatest skill in my opinion is to help people with different agendas to find that precious common ground and build from there. He is a man who deserves a title that is all too often bestowed without merit, but in his case it is truly deserved: miracle worker.¨–David Searby, program officer, U.S. State Department

How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

Keynotes work best when they are highly entertaining. People learn more when they laugh.

Who or what inspires you the most?

Winston Churchill. It is said that when he died, people went to his office and found a notepad. Churchill had written some words on the pad, with such force that they cut through all the way to the carton at the back of the notepad. The words were, “Never ever ever ever give up.”

How are your keynote presentations unique?

Two things. One, my keynotes pull from a lot of different disciplines: business, history, philosophy, science, theater… It’s a compelling mix. Two, people don’t learn what they hear about, they learn what they do themselves. My keynotes are highly interactive. The audience, or rather: the participants, get to experience and do.

How has leadership changed over the past decade?

A new leadership landscape—globalization and democratization, flattening organizational hierarchies and virtual teams, outsourcing and offshoring, the Internet and ubiquitous media—makes leading a more complex challenge than ever.

Even the twentieth century’s greatest leaders might have had a hard time leading in the twenty- first. Winston Churchill would be all over YouTube for his “battle with the bottle.”

Churchill was famous for saying that the higher you rise, the more clearly you see the big picture of vision and strategy. But is that still true today, when the receptionist or the front-line salesperson interface with customers every day and may have as much insight into the market as top managers and board members? Even the military recognizes that soldiers on the ground in Sadr City or Seoul may have more access to local strategic intelligence than commanders at headquarters and need to take part in strategic decision-making. In complex environments, top-down leadership fails.

The good news is that leadership is no longer confined to the realm of the select few. Throughout history, leadership was scarce. Now it is a public good. Google and Wikipedia put knowledge at people’s fingertips with the click of a mouse. Skype and Facebook connect them across the world for free or next to nothing. In the last century, consumers chose among a few TV channels and magazines; by 2007 there were 70 million blogs on the Web. Facebook and YouTube, where 65,000 videos are posted daily, democratize entertainment and give anyone a shot at being a musician or movie director.

Patients have stopped blindly trusting their doctors and instead demand answers and choice—something unthinkable a generation ago, when doctors were omniscient demigods whose judgment no one dared question.

How are we to lead in this new environment? It’s a tough question. Take a cue from Warren Buffett. When the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, one financial services company to emerge from the crisis unscathed, announced his plans to hire a younger person (or several) to understudy him in managing Berkshire’s investments, he did not mention financial savvy or technical skills or even strategic planning. Qualified candidates, Buffett noted, must possess “independent thinking, emotional stability, and a keen understanding of both human and institutional behavior.”

What is the importance and benefits of effective communication?

Communication is the water in which leaders swim. Effective speaking — and listening — have the power to build strategic alignment, mobilize for change, empower teams, prevent failed mergers, prevent lawsuits. Communication is like fire: you can use it to destroy something, or build championship performance.

See keynotes with Dr. Thomas D. Zweifel
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Keynote topics with Dr. Thomas D. Zweifel