Archive for December, 2018

Digital technology and new media permanently changed the dynamics of international relationships. Here are some of the realities:

  • Suddenly anyone with a laptop could do business with anyone else in the world.
  • A global economy quickly evolved as a result of rapidly developing technology… revealing countries where labor is cheap.
  • Businesses began to plan their growth beyond their national borders.
  • Most industries that leave their towns will not find it economical to return.
  • Thus, people lost their jobs. Globalization failed them. And they were also forgotten in Washington.
  • Trump promised them jobs, healthcare, and more. So they became his base.
  • But his promises cannot be kept. Updated training and education are the only solutions.
  • Many corporations have been operating beyond national borders for years. They see themselves as above any one government.
  • Thus, nations now shape their foreign policies to operate in an already interconnected global economy.
  • Clear national identities require constantly repeated simple messages. But in the final analysis, a nation’s identity is what is perceived by other nations and people.
  • And the behavior of partners and allies either reinforce or undermine that identity.
  • Foreign policy understanding requires government officials to speak from the same page. The larger the government, the more complicated this becomes.
  • Diplomacy is defined as nation-to-nation communication and is conducted by departments of state through embassies.
  • Public diplomacy is defined as people-to-people and government-to-people communication and is conducted by departments of state, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), various associations, educational institutions, and citizen travelers.
  • Digital technology and new media could enhance global understanding. But so far they have mostly magnified differences. Anger around the world seems to be increasing.
  • Question One: Can the current rapid expansion of international education, cross-cultural people exchanges, and overall foreign travel, eventually produce a more peaceful world?
  • Question Two: Is there a leader somewhere out there capable of bringing the heads of influential nations together under one common cause… freedom and justice?
  • Question Three: Maybe the next American president?

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Was the funeral service for Bush 41 in Washington the relic of a time gone by, or was it a reminder of the complexities and necessities of true public service leadership?

In other words, will our current president still think he was elected to change all of this by any means possible? Or, did seating him next to the other four living presidents make a statement that could lead to constructive change?

We now live in a politically polarized and divided nation. Even as this evolved, Bush 41 clearly preferred bipartisan problem-solving. Newt Gingrich was railroading Republicans into a totally partisan, hard-line conservative, combative, party. His aggression eventually morphed into Tea Party extremism, which laid the foundation for Trump’s victory. But even in a polarized environment, Bush was able to pass clean air, disability, civil rights, and other domestic legislation. Gingrich’s idea was to focus mostly on defeating the democrats. Bush’s was to find constructive ways to get things done.

Bush’s view of “America first” meant putting world peace first too. He combined quiet persistence with skillful diplomacy to negotiate the end of the cold war and the reunification of Germany. Both easily could have backfired into chaos. Pulling it off was a huge achievement. But he never bragged about it. He was not an “it’s about me” leader. He gave credit to others. For him, it was the American people who won the cold war.

Bush wanted everyone to think public service. He coined the phrase “1000 points of light,” setting the stage for an organization of volunteers serving others. Bush 43 later tried to float the idea of “compassionate conservatism” in his campaign. It didn’t stick. But it did stick as a theme for the entire Bush family.

I have been teaching a class about media and social change, and this week we discussed institutional leadership. I asked for thoughts about lessons they learned from Bush. They all agreed: Lead with a good measure of humility. Recruit a staff of highly experienced experts. Listen actively, and do things to make sure they enjoy working together.

It’s interesting that the deaths of John McCain and Bush 41, both Republicans, came so close together. Both showed courage in war. Both were competitive campaigners. Both preferred bipartisanship to gridlock. Both were remembered as compassionate. And both were contrasts to the Trump administration.

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough noted that, unlike others, Bush 41 felt no need to write a book about his presidency. He was simply content to have historians judge his value. My bet is that Bush will do well with historians… and will also become our “back to the future,” road map for electing only experienced, informed, decent, truthful, and public service-minded politicians.

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Recent media revolutions gave leaders powerful new media tools. Businesses, social services, NGOs, museums, arts organizations, universities, schools, governments, and causes everywhere, all can now reach their audiences directly and powerfully. But these same revolutions also changed how their audiences receive information, making successful communication even more complicated.

So with chaos and division continuing in American society, I decided it is time to review some of the communication challenges today’s leaders are facing:

  • Communication break down is inevitable. People simply hear what they want.
  • There are new and powerful media tools available, but choosing the best ones for each audience is complicated, and requires constant feedback.
  • At the same time, consumers are learning that many of these tools are proving to be time wasters, potentially isolating, and sometimes even psychologically harmful.
  • So speaking to public groups and appearing on television continues to be important. And each has its own performance requirement.
  • Speaking in public requires projecting vitality. Talking on television requires a more conversational tone. And social media platforms require clear and concise writing.
  • To get through to overloaded audiences, messages must be simple… and examples must be emotionally compelling.
  • And the deluge of messages, news stories, and competitor attacks, tends to give charges of “fake news” an air of credibility.
  • Therefore, issues and crises become difficult to manage. Getting facts out quickly and repeating them often, is a must.
  • A reputation-defining institutional identity must become an often repeated central message.
  • Innovation and bold creative initiatives help achieve visibility.
  • Today’s audiences want their hope restored. Forward-looking ideas and values are essential.
  • Good relationships with key journalists are important, especially when dealing with issues and crises.
  • Managing groups skillfully is necessary to get everyone “on the same page.” Word-of-mouth support still makes all the difference.
  • Partnerships and allies with shared interests are powerful forces for rebuilding credibility.
  • Dealing with internal politics to build team support is mandatory… especially now.

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