John Southard has a PhD in U.S. Military history, and is an author, speaker and expert in empathetic leadership. He has applied his historical research on empathy to corporate America to build empathetic leaders and cultures and optimize customer and employee experiences. John is passionate about teaching clients how to harness the power of empathy to change lives both within and beyond your organization’s walls.

John’s book, Defend and Befriend, chronicles the greatest, yet unknown story of empathy in world history. He tracks a small group of U.S. Marines in the Vietnam War who leveraged the power of empathy to build a sustainable trust in the most unlikely of places. The marines, unbeknownst to them, actually laid the foundation for a unique empathy framework that companies today can use to build trust with customers and employees. After studying this group of marines for more than a decade, John has applied their empathy playbook in the corporate world, which has yielded impressive business returns.

Featured Topics

Empathy in Action: Building Sustainable Trust and Culture through a Unique Framework

In today’s fast-paced and competitive business environment, companies and organizations are facing an empathy problem that is resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue every year. This dehumanizing of customer and employee experiences is detrimental to the success of any business. John, with his PhD in military history and extensive business experience, has designed a unique empathy framework that teaches audiences how to build sustainable trust with employees and customers. Using his extensive research into the greatest, yet unknown story of empathy in world history, John has successfully leveraged this framework to build empathy-centered cultures in corporate America, resulting in impressive returns.

  • Learn how to build sustainable trust with employees and customers
  • Discover how to become a more empathetic leader
  • Understand how to build an empathy-centered culture that prioritizes employee and customer needs

Find Your Voice: Unleashing the Power of Passion in Speaking

Are you a speaker or an aspiring speaker who is struggling to find your niche and figure out what to speak about? Look no further! Join John, a speaker who has been through the same journey, as he shares his own story of going from a military history PhD to a business professional to a successful speaker. He will inspire you to not compromise with your genuine passion in life and show you how to turn it into a professional speaking topic and a self-fulfilling career.

  • Learn how to confidently convert your passion into a speaking topic
  • Understand the process of finding a career and speaking topic that truly excites you
  • Improve your ability to communicate the value of your passion to others.


Defend and Befriend: The U.S. Marine Corps and Combined Action Platoons in Vietnam

After relatively successful military interventions in Iraq in 1992 and Yugoslavia in 1998, many American strategists believed that airpower and remote technology were the future of U.S. military action. But America’s most recent wars in the Middle East have reinforced the importance of counterinsurgency, with its imperative to “win hearts and minds” on the ground in foreign lands. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has studied and experimented with the combined action platoon (CAP) concept used from 1965 to 1971 by the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

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Southard's Expertise

Customer Experience - 100%
Employee Engagement - 100%
Trust - 100%
Cultural Differences - 100%
Communication - 100%

“John’s unique perspective on empathy helps you identify customer needs that you didn’t even know existed.”

Regional Director of Sales