What makes a good diplomat?

It’s a tough question to answer and a bit like trying to describe what makes a good artist.  It has also lent itself to some decent jokes over the years. For instance, it’s been said that a diplomat is someone who thinks twice before saying nothing.  Or that diplomats are people who can always make themselves misunderstood.  Then there is diplomacy itself, which has been described as the art of letting someone have it your way.

But, in seriousness, as the global community comes together to address stark flash points in international relations, we are reminded again of diplomacy’s critical role. We need to ensure our diplomats are as knowledgeable, professional and highly-skilled as possible, and there is much we can learn from our allies.  Yet, whereas the U.S. and British militaries have long trained side by side, our diplomatic corps have not.  It’s time to change that.

So as a start, Embassy London has teamed up with the UK’s new Diplomatic Academy.  At our first joint session, the UK’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sir Peter Westmacott, and I conducted a masterclass.  The subjects we covered were how to build a network and the power of asking for help – both essential tools for modern diplomacy.  We’re also now working together to develop a course on Internet governance.  And in October I look forward to attending the UK’s Ambassadorial seminar.

Our countries more often than not look at the world the same way.  We share values that we want to promote on the world stage.  So it makes sense that the U.S. and the UK pursue all means to make sure our diplomatic partnership is as strong and effective as possible – even, dare I say, “special”?