Saturday, November 15, 2008

Four Important Qualities for a Mediator

Aaron David Miller's Op-Ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times caught my eye. He calls it "State of Mind" and recounts four important qualities for President-elect Obama to consider in choosing a Secretary of State. Miller worked for six secretaries of state over twenty years and is the author of the book pictured. In brief, he says to succeed a Secretary of State needs the right persona, the President's confidence, a negotiator's mind-set and some balance of deviousness and toughness. I see these qualities as equally vital to the success of a mediator.

Miller says the top diplomat "needs to be an actor, a teacher, a tactician, an intimidator and a confidant." Sound familiar? He describes the negotiator's mind-set this way: "Teenagers talk on the phone, beavers build dams, and secretaries of state manage crises and solve problems. This means having a smart and tough view of the world, seeing how America's ends and means can fit together, and then knowing how to make them do so." He calls the particular mind-set "the intuitive capacity to see where the deal is, and to put oneself in the middle of the mix to bring it about". This is a perfect description of what a mediator does.

And here's the part I've never seen printed, but that also weighs in heavily in the artful mediation: "Deception is sometimes required and they maneuver constantly, trying to figure out what's necessary to succeed and how to use incentives, pressure, arm twisting and, when necessary, untruthfulness (either by omission or commission) to manage a crisis or close a deal."

So thank you, Aaron Miller, for articulating the true qualities of an artful mediator or Secretary of State. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on solving that pesky Middle-East issue next and looking forward to learning of Obama's choice for the role!

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