The Skill of Associations and Links

For a majority of people, the term protocol is associated with red carpet, VIP’s, personalities, official visits or set of rules that are non-negotiable. Likewise, diplomacy is associated to diplomats, embassies, privileges or negotiation. This is more or less the cliché I had in mind when I first started to collaborate with ISPD 3 years ago which lead me to become the school Academic Coordinator.

Being a hospitality professional educator I developed over the years an expertise in leadership development as well as cross-cultural development. I learned to use Mind Mapping as my main thinking tool. When I started to get involved in the instructional design of the ISPD course units I discovered the real numerous facets behind the words Protocol and Diplomacy.

I realized that beyond the red carpet lies the concept of respect which gives meaning to why you have the rules of protocol and that beyond the name of an Ambassador you have the title “your Excellency”. Therefore I started to mentally mind map what are the connections between Protocol, Diplomacy and Leadership or Cross-cultural Development.

 Everything in our world is in fact very much connected. The challenge is to be able to identify a maximum of connections in order to start getting the big picture.

 I want to share with you the connection I identified  between the term “Social Identity” and Protocol & Diplomacy. “Social Identity” is a theory developed by Henri Tajfel, an expert in social psychology, professor at Oxford University in the 1970’s. Social identity theory is best described primarily as a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviours on the basis of the perceived status, legitimacy and permeability of the intergroup environment (Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979)). This sounds very theoretical and academic yet there is a strong link between Leadership and Protocol & Diplomacy.

 The concept of Social Identity has been adapted for Leadership development and became an important tool for self-awareness of who you are within a context of group dynamic and how you can lead the group. Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) uses this tool to allow leaders to map who they are according to 3 layers like an onion. The first layer will help the leader to list what constitute their GIVEN identity such as race, nationality, physical characteristics, gender etc in other words things they cannot change neither be in control of.

The next layer will list their CHOSEN identity. This will include the orientation of their studies, career choices, marital status, friends etc. In other words what they have chosen in life, something they can be in control of.

Finally the last layer which will be in the center, lists the CORE elements that describe who they are like their personal traits. Words included in this layer can be shy, extrovert, introvert, bold, etc.

The purpose of the game will be to compare their “Social Identity” map with other members of a group in order to foster mutual understanding through the exploration of who the team members really are. It is one of the early activities at the beginning of a leadership development program. It will generate more respect between team members and the collective recognition of common grounds that will bond the team members and as a result facilitating leadership.

 What is the connection between “Social Identity”, a leadership development tool and Protocol & Diplomacy? Well, there are many but let me emphasize on at least an important one.

Cross-cultural awareness or intelligence is a key element in Protocol and Diplomacy. Knowing someone else culture will facilitate communication which in turn coupled with the rules of protocol and diplomacy will create a collaborative climate leading to projects and a lasting positive relationship.

However, being able to understand someone else culture start by exploring and being aware of OWNs culture. And this is exactly the link between Protocol & Diplomacy. A leadership development tool can be used to explore your own culture, raising your own awareness of your own culture which will help you acquire Cross-cultural Intelligence or information and understanding on how others see the world in a way that make sense to you.

 Last but not least, if Leadership can be defined as an activity of influence on others then we can conclude that protocol officers, diplomats or anyone with a solid understanding of Protocol and Diplomacy can also develop their leadership skills in the world of today: a VUCA world, that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (Bob Johansen, 2012)

 My conclusion is simple. The study of Protocol and Diplomacy is an important tool in the toolkit of leaders. And Leadership Development tools can be important additions in the toolkit of Protocol & Diplomacy professionals.


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