Now in Circulation



I am pleased to announce that The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively is now in circulation!

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This is my first post since the Logos Institute Blog began its weekly “what we’re reading” series.

I haven’t been reading as much lately as I usually do, because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my next book, about which you’ll hear much more in the coming months.

But when I’ve read it has mostly been building upon my reflections on China by paying attention to what others with far more experience there are saying.

An excellent starting point for anyone interested in understanding China from the perspective of the United States is Henry Kissinger’s On China.  This first-hand account from the nation’s architect of the 1972 Opening to China is both a fascinating read and a good guidebook to the seminal moments in China’s and the United States’ increasingly important relationship.

But to really understand how China got from 1972 to the present, from a Chinese perspective, the indispensable read is Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra F. Vogel.  The author is Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences at Harvard.  He took a break from teaching to spend time in the CIA in the 1990s as the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia. His voluminous and deeply-researched book includes private and Party papers, interviews with family members and participants at major events, and a deep understanding of the day-to-day workings of the key players.

It’s particularly interesting (and both fun and scary) to read Deng’s accounts of his meetings with Henry Kissinger side-by-side with Kissinger’s.  The book also places those meetings into a Chinese context and shows how the U.S. mis-calculated significantly again and again in its relationships with China — from the risk of Chinese intervention in the Korean war to China’s relationship with Vietnam.  China invaded Vietnam soon after we left, worried about Vietnam’s likely invasion of Cambodia and fearing Soviet encirclement.  So much for our fear of global communist domination.

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I have just returned from two weeks of teaching in China, and it has gotten me thinking.


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The Paradox of American Power

Between the 9/11 attacks and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the foreign policy establishment focused on the difference between “soft power” and “hard power.”

The concepts were elaborated in a 2002 book by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., then dean and now University Distinguished Service Professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Nye is consistently ranked one of the most influential US scholars on foreign policy.

His book, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go it Alone, was remarkably prescient. Read more

Taking Strategic Communication Seriously

The United States government is finally taking strategic communication seriously.

This week President Obama used all the instruments of diplomacy to advance the US foreign policy agenda, including getting Russia, France, and Britain to stand with the US against continued nuclear development by Iran.

President Obama’s wins at the UN and in the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh this week are just the latest indication of a more mature and intentional foreign policy that aims at influencing world leaders and the world community in ways that increase the security of the United States.

An important element of this new approach is a renewed emphasis on effective public diplomacy.

Effective Public Diplomacy =

Influencing, not Bullying

Last year I wrote a post about US public diplomacy, and how much of it missed the mark.

I noted that effective communication isn’t about pushing messages to audiences, but rather about provoking a desired reaction from those audiences.

I also quoted Dr. Amy Zalman, who wrote an East-West Institute concept paper, Countering Violent Extremism, that included this observation:

“Good communicators reveal, in speech and action, that they understand the motivations and aspirations of their audiences—and it is via this understanding that they gain their sympathies.”

Dr. Zalman then reviewed US public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world, and concluded:

“A review of U.S. official rhetoric shows an all too persistent absence of this understanding, an oversight which in turn can fan rather than dampen extremist sentiment.”

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Several weeks ago I posted on the life and passing of Walter Cronkite and noted that in the early 70s Mr. Cronkite was identified as the most trusted person in America.  I wondered aloud whether we could find any contemporary figure so trusted, much less among members of the news media.

That was intended as a rhetorical question.  But in the wake of Mr. Cronkite’s passing, Time magazine conducted a survey to see who fills Mr. Cronkite’s role today: the most trusted network broadcaster.

And the winner is…..

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Demonstration of Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi for Presidential Election by Yahya Natanzi

I’ve been hesitant to write about the Iranian election and the role (or possible role) of social media in its aftermath in the last two+ weeks. Initially, quite a lot was written about social media’s place in the demonstrations and calls for a recount or new election, with some calling it a “Twitter Revolution” (see Moldova’s so-called “Twitter Revolution.“)  But it was unclear to me at that early stage what the final outcome might bring. “Social media transforms Iran!” just didn’t seem a likely end result.

These two pieces seemed to be a challenge:

First, I know very little about Iran – its politics or particular religious practices – but what little I do know has left me with the impression that it’s a complex mix of BOTH politics and religion, entirely foreign to most Americans. While in the days (and even week) after the Iranian election there seemed to be a small hope that either the political or religious bodies might accept the calls for a recount or new election, it seemed unlikely that BOTH would.

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Humility is strength.

More than a year ago I began a series on this blog about humility as a leadership attribute.  I noted that

A dollop of humility tempers other attributes, and makes a leader even stronger. Humility helps a leader to recognize that maybe – just maybe – he or she might be wrong; that there may be other valid perspectives; that he or she doesn’t have to be the smartest person in every room, at every meeting.

Humility also helps leaders to connect with others up, down, and across the chain of command; to build organizations and cultures that more likely thrive; to understand the perspectives of other stakeholders.

Yesterday at the close of the G-20 Summit in London, President Obama put his leadership in full focus as he demonstrated both confidence and humility on the world stage.  It worked.

He gained the confidence of world leaders, including those who had previously been America’s adversaries or who had predicted that the Summit would fail.  He even got a rousing ovation from an otherwise skeptical world press corps.

In a press conference closing the Summit, President Obama demonstrated a tone that was a stark contrast to that of his predecessor, and that rallied other world leaders to seek to cooperate with the United States rather than to resist us.

President Obama set the tone before a single question was asked: Read more

What a week for crises!

Forget about the financial melt-down, the transition to the new president, or any of the really old news.

Last week was one for the record books.

The curtain rose Monday, December 8, on the usual tired old economic meltdown crises, particularly  the prospect of an auto bailout (that still hasn’t happened).

Then things got curiouser and curiouser…

Not Available on E-Bay

Tuesday Illinois governor Rod R. Blagojevich was arrested for trying to sell his appointment of President Elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat to a high bidder.  He’s still governor (as of 3:30 PM Monday, December 15).

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‘Nuff said….