What Can Business Leaders Learn From Diplomats?

Dr. Karina Ochis | Gen Z Expert | Professor Of Leadership and Management | Executive Consultant | Speaker | Author.

The secret world of diplomacy may seem far-reaching from the business world. In case Elon Musk’s rebellious style of management or Mark Zuckerberg’s casual style of leadership are not your cup of tea and you prefer some grown-up management, then the well-organized rulebook of diplomats could be the way to go.

What is diplomacy?

Diplomatic etiquette encompasses a collection of regulations and traditions that govern the conduct of diplomats, government officials and other leaders when representing their nation in the global arena. Diplomats exhibit professionalism and demonstrate respect to cultivate favorable connections and promote various interests. Diplomatic etiquette encompasses a set of established protocols that you may want to incorporate into your leadership.

1. Etiquette: Always be at your best!

Etiquette can be described as a set of social norms that govern appropriate behavior. The human species is inherently social, necessitating the adherence to suitable behavioral norms. Etiquette pertains to the adherence to socially responsible behavior.

The practice of etiquette cultivates an individual’s refinement, enabling them to make a lasting impression in every setting they encounter. Etiquette instructs individuals on the appropriate manner of communication, physical movement and social conduct within a given community. The observance of proper etiquette is crucial in establishing a memorable initial impression. Your manner of engaging with those in positions of authority, parents, colleagues and friends can provide significant insights into their character and upbringing. Etiquette plays a crucial role in facilitating individuals to garner respect and recognition within society.

2. Negotiations: Negotiate like a pro!

Negotiations entail the participation of multiple parties who convene with the objective of achieving a mutually acceptable outcome. One party will articulate its stance, while the other will either agree to the terms proposed or respond with its own perspective. The aforementioned procedure persists until a mutually acceptable settlement is reached by both sides or until negotiations cease without such a result.

Seasoned negotiators frequently prioritize acquiring comprehensive knowledge regarding the opposing party’s stance before commencing a negotiation. This includes a thorough understanding of the strengths and flaws inherent in that position, strategic preparations for defending their own viewpoints and anticipation of any counter-arguments to be presented.

3. Conflict management: Get conflict out of the way!

Conflict management addresses inconsistencies or disagreements caused by divergent opinions, objectives and desires. The process of managing conflicts deals with (seen) incompatibilities or disputes brought on by, for instance, opposing viewpoints, goals and wants.

It’s crucial to have individuals who are knowledgeable about disputes because they are a normal element of working in a corporation. Conflicts can be managed by being aware of the conflict, taking a considerate and rational approach, avoiding passive behavior, investigating the conflict, identifying options and agreeing upon a way forward.

4. Workwear: Dress to impress!

Clothing serves a similar purpose for humans as fur and feathers do for animals, as it not only enhances our visual presentation but also constitutes a significant aspect of our whole appearance. The perception of individuals by others is predominantly influenced by their attire and the manner in which it is presented. Etiquette and verbal communication are then observed, with character being the final aspect considered.

5. Conversation: The way you communicate is the way you win!

The essence of an ideal conversation lies in the equitable exchange of ideas, although frequently it becomes unbalanced, predominantly characterized by one-sided talking. The individual who engages in excessive talking, commonly called a voluble talker or chatterer, monopolizes conversation time without providing an opportunity for others who may also wish to contribute.

However, it is generally seen that individuals who have developed the belief that they possess exceptional conversational skills and charm tend to transform into insatiable nuisances. It is not feasible to engage in a conversation with individuals whose auditory range encompasses the speaker’s weighty vocalizations.

6. Greetings: You can’t make a first impression twice!

There exist several expressions that may be applicable in different circumstances and on various occasions. In the event that you had prior knowledge of an individual through mutual acquaintances, and you are aware that they too have been informed about you to a significant extent, it is appropriate to express your satisfaction upon being introduced to them.

This can be conveyed by stating phrases such as “I am greatly pleased to make your acquaintance” or “I am thoroughly delighted to finally meet you!” I advise you to refrain from using the phrase “pleased to meet you” in any given circumstance. It is imperative to refrain from expressing happiness until one possesses sufficient evidence to ascertain that the other party is also glad to make your acquaintance.

7. Cultural awareness: Be conscious of your presumptions!

Everyone falls into one of the ethnic categories because their cultural background shapes their attitudes and actions. You have to be conscious of your cultural presumptions and comprehension.

Our conceptions of human growth are rooted in ethnocultural perspectives. Eastern cultures typically consider a person as a social entity and classify development in terms of an increase in empathy and connection-making abilities. On the other hand, a lot of Western cultures start with the idea that a person is a psychological entity and characterize development as an increase in the ability to operate independently.


Diplomats run their lives based on an international code of mainly formal, but also numerous informal rules. Business leaders do the same; they also have to follow international rules and regulations and consider informal and cultural guidelines when interacting with foreign partners.

While Silicon Valley may make you think that the business world has become casual and that your business talk alone will make you win the desired contract—nothing could be further from the truth. In numerous regions around the world, from Asia to the Middle East, how you conduct business negotiations is often more important than the deal itself.

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