Steering the ship - and crew - of diplomacy
15 Jul 2016 - 13:24

The ambassador as captain of the ship

Ask a diplomat how much they like their job, and more often than not, they will reply: it depends on the boss.

This is true for many jobs, of course. But it’s especially true for diplomats, who are posted to consular or diplomatic missions abroad, often for four years at a time.

Life at a mission is a bit like life on board a ship. Like crew and captain, the staff and ambassador are bound to each other and to their mission. They need to understand each other, to work closely together. To rely on each other, as professionals. And to trust each other, as individuals.

In short, they need to be able to steer their ship together. But for the captain, there’s an added responsibility. He or she needs to steer both ship and crew, navigating for the long term.

Sailor, navigator and leader

Likewise, ambassadors need to have mastered their own sailing skills, including the daunting ability to engage in international communication and negotiations at the very highest levels. But they should also be able to think strategically – to navigate – and in particular, to lead: to support and mobilise their crew, and ensure their commitment to their common voyage. A ship, in the end, is only as good as its captain.

Senior-level diplomatic training at Clingendael incorporates all these facets. We see the ambassador as a diplomat, as a strategist, and as a leader.

And with our experience in training senior diplomats from Africa, Asia and Europe, we are able to offer custom-built ambassador programmes that take into account organisational and cultural differences within a diplomatic service as well.

Current programmes in senior diplomatic training

In this week and the next, ten ambassadors and top representatives for Europe’s youngest diplomatic service will be able to testify to the Clingendael approach, as newly appointed ambassadors as well as career diplomats will engage in two customised senior-level programmes: Effective embassy management and economic diplomacy (4-8 July) and Strategic policy-making and international communication (11-15 July).

Are you or your ministry interested in our senior-level diplomatic training programmes? Would you like to brainstorm with us on custom courses? Please contact Nils de Mooij, Training and Research Fellow, Clingendael Academy.