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The Art of Diplomacy

Basia Skudrzyk

· Communication,Leadership,Mentorship,Negotiation,Diplomacy

Leadership requires effective communication, leading from the front, and bringing out the best in individuals according to their competencies.  The art of diplomacy is a crucial characteristic of a leader who can genuinely understand the requirements of guiding in such a way that teams follow the lead without feeling inferior or left out. 

Diplomacy can also be referred to as tact. It can be used to achieve great purpose, but the intention behind diplomacy plays a key role.  From negotiation to assertion, diplomacy can provide a platform for bettering of relationships and leading to mutual trust and respect.  

Diplomacy is the art and science of maintaining peaceful relationships between nations, groups, or individuals.  Often, diplomacy refers to representatives of different groups discussing such issues as conflict, trade, the environment, technology, or maintaining security. 

The art of diplomacy goes back to ancient times.  In Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, treaties were written between different cities dating back to 2850 B.C. In Egypt and Canaan, diplomatic letters were exchanged in 14th century B.C.  In Mexico, you can still view writing on the walls of ancient Mayan buildings which indicates that Mayan cities exchanged diplomats. The first established embassies were in northern Italy dating back to the 14thcentury. 

Looking back at history, diplomacy was focused on bilateral relations, or negotiations between two nations.  A country or region many times had several trade or border agreements, each limited to a single country or region. Bilateral relations are still a very common form of diplomacy. 

Diplomacy is accomplished by negotiation, or bargaining.  Usually, each group in a negotiation will ask for more than they expect to get. They then compromise, or give up some of what they want, in order to come to an agreement.  Often, an outside diplomat will help with the negotiations. For example, Martti Ahtisaari, a Finnish diplomat and Nobel Prize recipient working for the UN, helped Namibia gain independence from South Africa in 1990. 

Countries may also threaten to use economic sanctions, or penalties.  In 2006, many countries agreed not to trade with North Korea in an effort to stop the country from illegally testing nuclear weapons. We can relate to the recent sanctions that are currently in place in Russia due to the unrest happening in Ukraine.  

Successful negotiation results in a diplomatic agreement. The most formal kind of an agreement is a treaty, a written contract between countries. The Treaty of Versailles, for instance, formally ended World War I.  It was signed in Versailles, France. Diplomats from the Central Powers, including Germany and Austria, were not allowed to negotiate the treaty. However, diplomats from other Central Powers nations and the Allied Powers,including the United States, approved the treaty.

Some treaties require years of diplomatic negotiation. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the United States and the Soviet Union began in 1969. The talks continued through 1979. The treaties that resulted from these diplomatic negotiations (named SALT I and SALT II) reduced the number of nuclear weapons being produced.  As leadership changes, so does the understanding of how negotiations and agreements have been established.  

Another type of agreement is a convention, which is signed by multiple nations and becomes international law. The most famous are the Geneva Conventions, which outline the treatment of prisoners of war, civilians, and medical personnel in a war zone. The first convention was signed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864. The fourth, and perhaps most important, was signed in 1949 after World War II. 

A successful diplomat understands that everyone who is involved in work has respect and an idea of how things should be. They are willing to listen to all kinds of opinions and suggestions without belittling anyone. But what sets leaders apart from managers is that they are able to make sure everyone works to their full potential in such a way that they don’t merely benefit the organization, but themselves too. 

Leaders know that only a happy employee is a productive employee, which is why they keep the interest of the employees at the forefront. Work is assigned in a way that everyone feels important and needed. They encourage dialogue so that everyone can say what’s on their mind and implement ideas which lead to success.  

Great leaders lead in a way that no one feels patronized or influenced. True diplomatic leaders do not let their own bias or judgment hinder outcomes. They are willing to give everyone a fair chance and allow them to flourish in their personal regard.  hey do not project their version of perfection on others and encourage growth. 

Some suggestions to consider when applying diplomatic leadershipstrategies are: 

1. Emotions – Emotions can be destructive. A leader needs to understand that feelings can complicate a focused strategy. When someone is in a stage of agitation, they are likely to only think of what they want and do not think of the organization at large. Negotiations can only work well with an open mind. Having facts and logical conclusions are necessary for diplomacy.  

2. Create a List – Writing down a list of ideas on paper allows a person to stick to the agenda. This strategy allows one to be clear in their delivery and about what needs to be discussed to be respectful of everyone’s time and energy. Being consistent and clear allows for trust to be established.  

3. Communicate Not Tell –Delivery is essential in the art of negotiation.  If a leader goes in with their own opinions and idea, the opportunity to listen to the team about their ideas and feelings is lost. Allow a team to provide their suggestions and think over them. Having a team approach allows for more opportunities and ideas to come together that may lead to something better and or productive.  

4.  Allow for Decisions to Come From the Team - Instead of making statements or even putting forth suggestions, questions allow for a team to feel they are part of the process. A leader may be surprised by how well the outcome is when they question people instead of suggest ideas. 

The art of diplomatic leadership comes with time.  An important aspect to remember is that in a discussion, negotiation or even meetings, th eleader is not the only person involved. Keeping in mind others' feelings and opinions will help make things better and the team stronger. Good luck!