How to be a diplomat: if you can’t follow, you will never lead

Noura Saber Al Mazrouei on what it takes to be a successful diplomat in today's world and the new challenges diplomats face

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Zhou Enlai was foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 until 1958 and its first premier. He defined diplomacy as a continuation of warfare by other means.

In the contemporary world, that definition includes an understanding of the concepts of hard and soft power.

Joseph Nye developed the idea of soft power as the ability to attract and persuade rather than applying economic, military and political hard power.

William Strang, who served as Britain’s permanent under-secretary of state for foreign affairs from 1949 until 1953, remarked that “in a world where war is everybody’s tragedy and everybody’s nightmare, diplomacy is everybody’s business”.

Emirates Diplomatic Academy received an exceptional mentor, who examined the concept of diplomacy from his own perspective.

Our guest was Omar Ahmad Adi Al Bitar, a former ambassador of the UAE to China and who has also been deputy general manager at Emirates Diplomatic Academy.

According to him, diplomacy is the way we conduct ourselves to achieve our policy as well as the art of persuasion.

He indicated that diplomacy is our behaviour and attitude while conducting foreign policy.

Mr Al Bitar also explained what makes good diplomats. The UAE’s foreign affairs require great intellectual qualities and personal skills.

As a diplomat, you represent your leadership, your people, your country and your culture abroad, as well as serving your country’s national interests.

You have to be dedicated and loyal to the leadership and the nation. In the game of nations you have to become a champion to be able to achieve maximum gains for your country.

You have to prepare yourself and acquire the best possible skills and qualities while you can. You have to be disciplined and respectful of your superiors, you must support them in carrying out their responsibilities. You must always be professional and never personalise your relations or the issues you deal with at work. You must be a good team player but when you lead, be a good example to your subordinates. Be aware: if you cannot follow, you will never be able to lead successfully.

Mr Al Bitar ended his speech with some advice.

Firstly, have high moral values and integrity. Be honest, ethical and disciplined. Put your country’s interests above all else and have a high sense of responsibility, loyalty, duty and respect.

Secondly, get well educated and knowledgeable. Be thoughtful, insightful and creative.

Next, develop a positive personality and image. Be kind, calm, caring, humble, well-dressed and presentable.

In addition, develop your leadership and managerial skills, and have good communication, negotiation, analytical and decision-making skills.

In Mr Al Bitar’s estimation, you will also need to be credible and trustworthy. Be prompt, accurate and fulfil your promises.

Finally, to be a successful diplomat you need to be resilient and firm.

You should be ready to operate under stress and pressure while defending your country’s positions with all your talents and skills.

I am grateful to Mr Al Bitar for all that I have learnt from him.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has played a crucial role in establishing the EDA, a unique institution that helps to develop the skills of UAE diplomats so that they can represent the country abroad in the most effective manner and defend its interests.

Dr Noura Saber Al Mazrouei is an assistant professor at Emirates Diplomatic Academy