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Donna  Hicks

Donna Hicks

Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Award-Winning Author & Internationally Renowned Authority on Dignity


“As you probably know, Donna is an excellent speaker, who is passionate about her work, and makes her message very relatable to everyone in the room. The feedback from the attendees has been incredible” -US Department of Agriculture

“I really can’t thank you enough for sharing your ideas with us.  The response since then has already been incredible.  I can already see that something has sparked in many people and that discussions have started.  People have told me that this was the best presentation that they have ever seen here….I think that something very special happened yesterday, and that it will lead to some cultural or organizational shift in the future.  This is all simply amazing, and people seem to be activated” -US Department of Agriculture

Harvard’s Donna Hicks is the pioneering mind behind the Dignity Model, a signature approach that she has applied to the most divisive and deep-seated conflicts around the world. Her award-winning book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, broke new ground and established dignity as a universal, powerful and motivating force behind all human interaction. Now with her landmark book, Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture That Brings Out the Best in People, Dr. Hicks is empowering leaders in business, health care, government and other fields to create cultures of dignity as the key to fostering innovation, productive relationships and successful outcomes. A dynamic and thought-provoking speaker, Dr. Hicks draws upon her extensive background in international conflict resolution and experience utilizing the Dignity Model to transform work cultures in a range of businesses and organizations. Her presentations provide a thorough understanding of the role of dignity in human relationships. She also provides a playbook for creating a culture in which everyone—employees, customers, patients, clients, and others—thrives. Read More >

During more than two decades at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Dr. Hicks has focused on the world’s most extreme conflicts with extensive work on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a ten year project on Sri Lanka, conflicts in Colombia and Northern Ireland (with Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu), and several US/Cuba dialogues. In addition, Dr. Hicks was the Deputy Director of the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution (PICAR) at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and is now an Associate at the Center. Her clients include the World Bank, United Nations, US Navy and governments worldwide. Dr. Hicks is currently involved in a dignity restoration project in Syria and Libya as Vice President of Ara Pacis, an Italian organization sponsored by the Italian Foreign Ministry.

She was a consultant to the BBC, co-facilitating encounters between victims and perpetrators of the Northern Irish conflict with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The encounters were made into three television programs entitled Facing the Truth. Dr. Hicks has taught courses in conflict resolution at Harvard, Clark and Columbia Universities and conducts dignity leadership trainings and educational seminars around the world.

Dr. Hicks’ experiences resolving world conflict are now being implemented to transform workplace cultures. She connects the essential human need for dignity to the challenges facing corporations, healthcare and human services organizations—even to fostering civil dialog on college campuses. Sharing real-word case stories, her insightful, highly human and frequently brilliant presentations provide an eye-opening and instantly actionable approach that is redefining effective leadership. Backed by research and case studies, Dr. Hicks shows how a culture of dignity goes beyond making people feel valued. It also optimizes performance, unlocks potential and fosters innovation in any organization. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

The Meaning of Dignity

Building Trust Through Meaningful Work

Speech Topics

Leading with Dignity

Often confused with the concept of “respect,” dignity goes much deeper and reflects our inherent value and worth. Everyone—employees, customers, patients, clients and others—want to be treated in a way that shows they matter. Without a working knowledge of dignity and its critical role in the well-being and health of a workplace culture, leaders unknowingly fail to honor it. The resulting emotional pain, conflict and distrust can ultimately create a toxic work environment. Read More >

Drawing from her landmark book and ten years of original research and real-life case studies, internationally-renowned dignity expert Donna Hicks takes a new look at leadership through the lens of honoring dignity. She shares workable recommendations on how any organization— corporate, healthcare, human services and beyond—can create a culture that brings out the best in people. Dr. Hicks covers: Read Less ^

  • What international conflicts can teach us about the power of dignity in the workplace
  • Common signs your workplace has a dignity problem—and how to transform it into a culture of dignity
  • The 10 key elements of dignity and how to lead others in a way that honors it
  • The common ways leaders unknowingly violate their employees’ dignity—and what to do about it
  • How a culture of dignity fosters innovation, productivity, morale and positively impacts relationships with clients, patients and customers

Creating a Culture of Dignity in Healthcare Organizations

One of the greatest challenges in any organization is attracting the best employees—then, keeping them engaged and invested in your organization and its mission. Research shows that people who feel valued are more likely to go above and beyond and exhibit higher levels of loyalty. Creating a culture of dignity can improve recruitment and retention, make employees more open to learning and development, create an atmosphere of psychological safety and transform toxic environments. In healthcare, there’s even more to gain. Staff who feel honored and valued will, in turn, honor and value the dignity of patients, patients’ families and the members of the communities they serve. In this presentation for healthcare leaders and professionals, internationally-renowned dignity authority Donna Hicks dives into the research and neuroscience behind her Dignity Model. She also provides actionable recommendations for creating cultures that truly bring out the best in people—deepening relationships, improving communication and ultimately, impacting patient outcomes.

Bringing Dignity to Divided Times

The tone of discussion in our country is more polarized than ever before. How can we overcome barriers to foster productive dialog? A veteran of conflict resolutions involving Israelis & Palestinians, Turks and Armenians, and Catholics and Protestants reconciling after “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, Harvard’s Dr. Donna Hicks has found the key. Her internationally-acclaimed Dignity Model creates a new paradigm for constructive conversation—one that recognizes that every human being has the same basic need to be valued, appreciated, and have their own self-worth validated. In this game-changing presentation, Dr. Hicks shares the essential elements of dignity, how to honor it in others and maintain your own—even in contentious situations. By understanding the Dignity Model you will not only be able to influence more civil and productive conversations—you will learn essential skills for improving and enhancing relationships everywhere in your life.