Tag Archives: Leadership

One of the Great Negotiators

Negotiate – Word of the Day

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Dag Hammarskjold (1905 – 1961) a Swedish Diplomat, economist and from 1953 – 1961 he was the UN Secretary General. He was also a deeply spiritual person, a contemplative who loved the medieval mystics. His book ‘Markings’ a journal of his spiritual struggles was posthumously published with a foreword by his friend, the poet W.H. Auden. He called his diary – negotiations with himself and with God.

Hammarskjold was propopsed by the British Foreign Secertary Anthony Eden who was impressed with Hammarskjold’s work in diplomacy and economics. The vote was almost unanimous in the Security Council and Hammarskjold was announced as the next Secretary General. The American and Soviet delegates thought Hammarskjold was harmless. He was reelected in 1957.

Hammarskjold was unaware of the nomination, and in fact thought the media report was a joke, and because it was announced on April 1st, he quipped that it was a bad April Fools joke. But it was indeed true.

Hammarskjold believed that relationships were important and that example was one of the best forms of leadership. He tried to meet as many employees at the UN as possible, he ate regularly in the staff cafe, he refused to use his private lift and opened it for general use, he established the meditation room (which he helped to design) which was to be for withdrawal and reflection, a place for silence, and a multi-faith space. He prevented FBI intervention at the UN that his predecessor had allowed at the height of McCarthyism. And he brought order and regulatory process to an organisation in crisis.

He was an able negotiator. He made some impact on relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1955 he successfully negotiated the release of eleven US airmen who were prisoners from the Korean War. In 1956 he played a major role in ending the Suez Crisis, There are many other negotiations that he was involved in, and which demonstrate his capacity to work hard and achieve a positive outcome. Not everything was plain sailing though, the Congo was unresolved, interrupted by his death, and the Soviet interference and then occupation of Hungary was frustrating for Hammaskjold as there was little he could do to bring a resolution forward.

His role in the Congo Crisis was cut short by his death as the result of a plane crash travelling to Congo. There are those who still believe that Congolese rebels associated with mining interests were responsible for the plane crash, but no substantive proofs have come to light, including a UN 2015 investigation into the matter. Hammarskjold made four visits to the Congo. It was, as history has shown, a tangled web of politics and power plays. The USSR and the Americans had their own people on the ground and were manipulating much of the power play. The Congo had become factionalised on independence, and the popularly elected Prime-minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered. It was utter chaos.

J.F. Kennedy said of Hammarskjold: “I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.” Kennedy was reflecting on Hammarskjold’s death and on his own resistance to Hammarskjold’s policy in the Congo.

Extreme left and right views are critical of Hammarskjold, and in the main these revolve around the immpossible situation in Hungary, and the seemingly intractable problem in the Congo. But for me they are the proof, by comparison, of the majority of successes he was part of and integral to. His record stands as testimony to his great ability to network, form key relationships, to maintain a consistent approach, and to believe the best in people. His commitment was to keeping peace and finding better ways for nations to negotiate their differences. He formed the UN Emergency Response Group, and initiated the first Peace Keeping force. He was posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

His strength came from his contemplative stance, especially meditation, and his sheer passion for peace in the world. His personal belief was that selfless service to humanity was crucial. Whatever you may think of him, he was one of the great negotiators of the 20th century.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Australian Federal Election

I wonder. So many times I have voted now and so many times I have been  bemused by voter response. Currently I am reflecting on my own month long polling of voters, being as my vocation puts me in touch with so many people I am able to canvass their views. The only concern I have, not withstanding that their vote is absolutely their vote, is that no one could actually tell me why they voted as they did other than that they did not like either Rudd as PM, or that they did not like Labor as a party due to all the leadership issues. Set piece issues that were raised such as the Carbon Tax, elicited no real understanding other than “it’s destroying business” or “stop the boats” did elicit how people still believe the myths  that have been perpetuated by several groups about asylum seekers.  My question is: did any Australian know what they were really voting for. I’m not talking about the shallow personality view of life where we simply pit one ego against another as a leadership contest (somewhat immature in reality).  I am talking about having some basic knowledge of the policies on offer. I felt that people were voting in a negative reactive way to personality rather than from an informed base, especially comparatively. My general unease about this comes from a further reflection that such voter behaviour simply perpetuates a constant cycle of rebound voting which only serves a two party focus.

Paul

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Our Kingdom for a … For a what?

Political praxis is never clean or simple. There are few examples of a golden age anywhere, or for very long where it is perceived. It seems to be a business of cut and thrust, a very dirty game to play in. It has been no dirtier than with the fall of PM Julia Gillard to third time challenger and former PM Kevin Rudd.

On the one hand I don’t want to lionise Gillard as suffering victim, nor on the other vilify Rudd as vexatious usurper. Politics is, apparently, like this.

Of course it has left some opining for those golden good old days. And there were some hopeful moments as when Whitlam brought us into the modern world, or when Don Chipp founded the Australian Democrats to keep the two main parties honest! When Hawke and Keating commanded real international respect (as opposed to the sycophantic Menzies or the weakness of Howard). Or when Bob Brown and the Greens had some leverage that mattered. But if you were looking for great moments in integrity and really fine leadership you’d be sorely pressed to find it.

What the current leadership wrangle demonstrates to me is the complexity of how unhealthy ego and party machinations towards survival dominate the process of actual leadership and government. Rudd has challenged three times. Those challenges in themselves have surely been debilitating, they take time, energy and focus. Both sides have also spent time in manoeuvring for factional and public support, surely this too is leadership sapping and distracting.

In the midst of it all where is the leadership? Where are the policies?

We are living in a time when our agricultural sector is in deep trouble, not just because of perennial or local weather issues, not just because of global warming, but because there are depressed markets, debt and financial\structural issues, competition and trade problems, labour supply and more. But who in Canberra is bothered?

For me the response to refugees has been devoid of compassion, but this has been lost in inter-party and intra-party wrangling. Refugees were both a factional Labor as well as Liberal casualty. People’s lives have been diminished by party ego taking centre stage and determining the tenor of debate, defence and strut.

Mining is currently sexy, but there is yet no policy for the future of mining, will it eventually suffer like agriculture?

Education is another sector. The Gonski reforms are at the very least an attempt to get beyond the the oh so clever petty State games of playing off the Commonwealth and at the same time moving towards a real national standard. The states opine, but look at the standards in some states! The public have begun to be seduced into thinking ill of it, and lately because it is attached to Gillard’s leadership.

The reforms that Gillard spearheaded were not sexy and have surely been a factor in her downfall, voters don’t like cod liver oil no matter how good it is for them. The mining tax would be an example, after all the corporate whinging about it few miners paid any substantial monies out of their hefty profits, which I would point out are derived from crown land (and therefore belonging to the government and therefore the people).

But in the end Gillard herself has suffered only what she herself brought upon Rudd when she challenged earlier. However, what is very different has been the spiteful narking about gender, it was never been overt, but it was there and it was subtly nurtured in the public. No male politician has been demeaned because of their gender, and no PM has been so harassed as Julia Gillard.

When leadership issues dominate ego clearly drives, but in politics it rarely seems to be healthy ego drive. There is little room for integrity, and there is little room for an attending to real public needs. Generosity and compassion are junked for toughness and testosterone.

Somewhere I\we have a responsibility in all of this, because we vote and so we do have some say. Yet as I look out on the political landscape in Australia (and indeed across the world) I feel less hopeful, for me there seem to be no real contenders worth my vote in the things that really matter.

My political fantasy is one where leadership draws from mindfulness and awareness, and holds the praxis of compassion to be the highest, and where all people matter. What would it cost to have an emotionally intelligent leader?

Perhaps when we cross the Rubicon (but never the Styx).

Paul

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