The primary characteristic of diplomatic leadership is a predisposition for flexibility. In our current culture, ideological perspectives are often treated with rigidity, even if the only foundation for the perspective is an unverified opinion. This leadership style requires you to analyze situations before attempting to diagnose a problem.
Diplomatic leaders must be fluent verbally and be precise with their language. They must also have an ability to write quickly and produce excellent prose. There must be a meticulous attention to every detail, because in the world of diplomatic leadership every action, word, or instance of body language is potential communication.
Then there are the negotiation qualities to consider. The goal of a diplomatic leader isn’t to get someone to agree with them. It is to come to an agreement which serves the best interests of their team and company.
Advantages of the Diplomatic Leadership Style
1. It encourages collaboration and cooperation within the team.
Diplomatic leaders seek out a consensus. Their goal is to find the best way forward that is mutually beneficial for everyone involved. They achieve this by advocating for each team member and establishing their role as equal to the processes of the organization. By encouraging people to work together, even if there are disagreements, the collaboration achieved through different perspectives often leads to profound results.
2. It maximizes fairness within the organization.
Fairness is defined by having each person receiving the same opportunities as everyone else, no matter what their role or experience may be. By encouraging each person to be their best, the diplomatic leadership style creates higher levels of productivity because workers feel more satisfied with what they are doing. Each worker gets a say in how they complete their projects and are encouraged to seek out innovative processes to improve the experience for everyone.
3. It inspires other people to act.
The diplomatic leadership style is contagious once it gets a hold of an organization. It is able to spur others into action because they feel good about the work they are doing. Diplomatic leaders are able to unify teams around them, creating a strong bond which allows for one voice to be heard when a project is completed. It encourages workers to believe in themselves, their organization, and the work that is being done. When one person experiences these benefits, everyone wants to get a piece of the action.
4. It creates more leadership availability.
Diplomatic leaders often make themselves available for troubleshooting, discussion, or other forms of assistance. Their goal is to help each person on their team be able to maximize their own strengths without showing favoritism to specific people. They create influences that avoid offense, focusing on personal development instead. This reduces the need to blame others, helping the team to focus on solution, and that is because the leader remains accessible throughout every process.
5. It creates a calm working environment.
Diplomatic leaders seek to separate the emotions from the decisions which must be made. They work hard to avoid becoming angry with situations or people. If they do experience anger, they initiate coping mechanisms which prevent the negative energies from spreading. They also work to prevent others from becoming upset and proactively destroy discouragement when it appears to create a workplace atmosphere that is often calm and collected.
6. It allows each person to receive the credit they deserve.
A diplomatic leader is more concerned with the successes of their team than individual glories. They will often shrug off any personal credit that may come their way, directing it toward the people who got the work done instead. Because they recognize team members for a job well done, more people tend to want to work for leaders who use this style consistently.
Disadvantages of the Diplomatic Leadership Style
1. It takes more time to accomplish goals.
Diplomatic leaders are looking to create a negotiating consensus that gets everyone onto the same page. When there are defining lines that parties will not cross, the time it takes to create enough common ground to generate cooperation could put a project behind schedule. The only way to reduce this issue, which often occurs when there are differing versions of morality, is to hire people who are like-minded on a philosophical level.
2. It may create unclear worker roles.
Because the diplomatic leadership style is based on finding common ground, almost everything is up for negotiation at some point. That includes the roles of specific workers within an organization. If your company produces phone books, for example, and the leadership team decides to start publishing magazines instead, then you job as a listing salesperson is going to change. Uncertainty almost always leads to negativity, which will eventually reduce team productivity.
3. It may create roles which overlap one another.
Let’s say that your organization needs to establish a marketing department. The executive team goes out and hires a new executive vice president to head the team. Then it begins hiring people who will produce creative content to get the brand and company messages out to the targeted demographic. Then there is you, a human resources coordinator, who is also tasked with talking to the local media about what happens at your company. Negotiating often creates overlapping roles that can cost a company money if the structures aren’t adjusted before implementation.
4. It may cause some leaders to withhold their opinions.
Diplomatic leaders may sometimes emphasize team unity over their own opinion, even if they believe their perspective is the correct one. When leaders feel like they’re forced to hold themselves back, it diminishes their authority. It reduces their ability to lead their team in a firm manner. At the end of the day, that can make it more difficult to achieve the unity that is desired.
5. It can lead to incorrect priorities.
Diplomatic leaders do not usually offer specific directives for task completion unless there is something specific to accomplish within the negotiating process. If a team incorrectly prioritizes a task, then it can be difficult for this leadership style to get people back on the right course. For the leaders who discredit or compromise on their own expertise, there may even be an avoidance of direction as a form of empowerment that further hampers forward progress.
The advantages and disadvantages of the diplomatic leadership style show us that there is power in the ability to find common ground. It leads to cooperation and higher levels of productivity. It can also lead to clear negatives, such as a need to budget more time or shift people unwillingly into new roles. When a leader with the characteristics of diplomacy can use their skills effectively, then the advantages of this leadership style have the best chance to be seen.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.