Carnegie Mellon University

Ludmila Hyman

Ludmila Hyman

Assistant Teaching Professor, Liberal & Social Sciences

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


My teaching and research focus on rhetoric of leaders—on how individuals in power use language for thinking and communication, and on how to increase our students’ competence as emerging leaders in business, science, technology, education, politics, community, arts, fashion, and family life.

I am committed to cross-cultural understanding and enrichment. Today not only the West brings to the Middle East important concepts and methods of leadership, but the Middle East can teach the world about essential issues of leading from an ethical position (cf. Ramadan, 2007); about various uses of power, including “soft power” (Kamrava, 3013); emotional intelligence; balancing tradition with a vision of the new; and skillful use of persuasion.

In my research, I investigate deep cultural concepts and practices important for leadership that are characteristic of the Gulf region. In teaching leadership to undergraduates and in Executive Education courses, I focus on the skillset that enables leaders to design and implement change. I teach tools that empower leaders to create vision and strategy in a flexible, culturally sensitive way, based on a refined definition of a leader’s own values and purpose.


Success in today’s world depends on highly developed skills of verbal thinking, reasoning, reading, and writing, which I teach in 76-100 Reading and Writing in an Academic Context, and 76-101 Interpretation and Argument. A distinctive characteristic of the Carnegie Mellon approach is emphasis on the students’ ability to develop rigorous, conceptually precise arguments from sources, rather than from mere opinion, in order to enter a conversation with experts about significant issues.      

76-101 Interpretation and Argument: Sociology of Fashion

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” Oscar Wilde

Gulf societies are highly fashion conscious and have a strong appreciation for luxury. What are the functions of fashion and luxury products in (any) society? What do appearances help people do, or express? What is the relationship between taste and social class? To address these questions, we read and analyze a fascinating set of texts—classics of the Western sociology of fashion (by Georg Simmel, Thorstein Veblen, and Pierre Bourdieu) and some contemporary arguments about the changing meaning of fashion and luxury in today’s world. We apply these concepts and arguments to our own experience and create our own arguments that help us understand the meaning of fashion in our cultures and societies. 

76-324 Rhetoric and Leadership

To be a great leader, it takes an orchestration of a vast number of social, emotional, intellectual, supervisory, and communicative skills. This course focuses on vision—the most challenging and often neglected part of a leader’s skillset. How does one become a unique and powerful visionary leader—we can think of Steve Jobs or Sheikh bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai—who freely conceives “what is next,” and can take his or her company, community, or family to the next level? This capacity for envisioning is intimately connected to the leader’s self, and depends on both his capacity for imagining future possibilities and his understanding of the current reality.

In Rhetoric and Leadership, I teach component skills that help one develop the ability to conceive and communicate “what is next.” They include defining values, purpose, understanding community needs, visualizing, crafting a purpose-based strategy, mapping concepts and relationships, interviewing, storytelling, and conversation design. The course challenges students to become a creative person, and to combine rigorous thinking with imagination.

76-294 Interpretive Practices

In this course, required for the English Studies minors, I teach to balance creativity with a careful historical and textual analysis in interpreting texts. We focus on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899)—a story of conquest set in colonial Africa, in which Westerners confront the radical other, and themselves. As a modern version of the story, we watch Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), inspired by Heart of Darkness, which portrays American soldiers in Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

To interpret these texts, we employ some important theories and interpretive strategies for understanding fiction and film. We read Edward Said on orientalism, Louis Althusser on ideology, Mikhail Bakhtin on dialogue, and other key theorists that offer powerful concepts for literary analysis. 


In my research, I seek to gain a deeper understanding of how leaders deal with change: how they identify relevant change in their environment, how they respond to it, and how they think and communicate about the future.

Leaders as Agents of Change in Science

At the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, I focused on change and leadership in the context of science. I examined how a group of Soviet psychologists under the leadership of L.S. Vygotsky developed the groundbreaking research program of cultural-historical psychology in the context of radical social change in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union. I analyzed how later the legacy of Vygotsky and his school has been adapted and transformed in the Western cultural context.

I published this work in the chapter of the edited volume The Globalization of Knowledge in History titled “The Soviet Psychologists and the Path to International Psychology” (2012). I analyzed Vygotsky’s response to change in the state of psychology in the 1920s in the paper “Vygotsky’s Crisis: Argument, Context, Relevance” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological & Biomedical Sciences (2012).

Leaders as Agents of Change in Politics

Following my work on public-intellectual leadership of the political philosopher Hannah Arendt (in my dissertation) and the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, I have recently started to analyze the rhetoric of major political leaders.

I have recently presented a paper on the role of ethical values in the rhetoric of Mikhail Gorbachev, “Gorbachev’s Argument for Perestroika: Forgotten or Remembered?”, at the NCA/AFA Summer Conference on Argumentation at Alta, Utah, USA, in August, 2015.

I will be presenting an analysis of how two major Arab leaders balance appeals to the past and the future in “A New Arabia Rising: Change and Tradition in the Rhetoric of the Leaders of the UAE (Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum) and Qatar (Sheikha Moza)” at 17th Biennial Rhetoric Society of America Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 27-29, 2015.

Leaders as Agents of Change in Organizations

Since coming to Qatar, I have been conducting qualitative interviews with leaders, managers, and professionals in Qatar and in the West with the goal of understanding the challenges of leadership in the Gulf, and leading across cultures. In order to teach leadership to a new generation of leaders in the Middle East, we need to understand what is missing and what is needed in the current world of leadership. In my opinion, leaders are heroes of modern societies. The workload and responsibility that they take on—as well as well as the burdens of visibility and judgment—can be enormous. Yet the knowledge and wisdom that leaders acquire with experience often remains private, or shared with a small circle of colleagues. I want to make this precious knowledge more sharable. I collect leaders’ stories and wisdom in order to pass them on—anonymously, if a leader wishes—to students and researchers. The ultimate goal of this research to create better, culturally-sensitive methods and tools for teaching leadership in Arabia.

Selected Publications

Hyman, L. (2016). Gorbachev’s Argument for Perestroika: Forgotten or Remembered? 2015 Alta Conference Selected Works. Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Hyman, L. (2014). The leader as a strategist: Teaching the skill set for building a future. In C. Coombe, B. Wiens, P. Davidson, & K. Cedro (Eds.), Perspectives on student leadership development (pp. 120-133). Dubai: TESOL Arabia.

Hyman, L. (2012). Vygotsky’s Crisis: Argument, context, relevance. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological & Biomedical Sciences, 43(2), 473-782.

Hyman, L. (2012). The Soviet psychologists and the path to international psychology. In Jürgen Renn (Ed.), The globalization of knowledge in history (pp. 631-668). Berlin: Edition Open Access.