Any career where you spend years in language training and thousands of hours waiting for clearances of policy documents, letters, statements and demarches trains you to be patient. If not careful, it also trains you to be cautious. The group of us who have decided to organize this blog-guide believe that in the State Department, there is appetite for risk – see all the extraordinarily creative expeditionary diplomacy of the last two decades – and there is courage galore. The missing piece, we think, is a guide for how to build from isolated examples of courage and activism to teach and encourage such behavior throughout the service. Therefore, we have decided to start this blog-guide for success that might help guide future leaders, as you seek to chart a maverick path, to take an active approach to supporting our mission, to be less cautious, and to get ready to lead when you advance after navigating in this great diplomatic profession we call the “Twenty-Five Year Apprenticeship.”
To take a leadership role on policy formation or to take the reins during a crisis necessitates special skills, determination and guts. In a word - leadership. This blog aims to describe these leadership skills, the determination and guts careerists need, and to lay out what lessons we in the Civil and Foreign Service can and should draw as we seek to serve our country most effectively during our “Twenty-Five-year Apprenticeship.” We think there are many dedicated, extraordinary careerists out there thirsting for tips on how to create a more dynamic department and to play a greater role in service to our policy goals.
While circumspection and wisdom are valued traits, we believe almost all in the State Department have these important skills in spades. Therefore, the blog will focus on boldness and activism as the most essential skills needed to emerge from the highest levels of policy knife fights unscathed (inside the USG and with foreign partners). There are some common themes and paths that have been taken to success and there are jobs that help us advance more or less but our goal is not to talk about advancement or to define success (different for all); instead our aim is to provoke readers to define success and to offer some tips on how to develop and become a more effective diplomat. We will not recommend a particular cone or job, a country to work in or a desk to aim for; instead we think success can be found anywhere. We hope to help suss out what skills we should seek to hone to be more effective, more successful, and more ready to answer the call to lead when opportunities arrive. This blog, drawing on the wisdom and lessons learned from “legends” and “experts” will seek to lay out some of the elements of this path to success.
There are lots of books and histories that lay out how leaders made diplomatic breakthroughs, led negotiations, ended wars, etc. but where are the stories about the worker bees and where are the articles that offer the tools for the “apprentices” so when their turn comes, they are ready, and armed with skills and experiences necessary to make a difference? We hope this blog gives you, our fellow apprentices, some big ideas and some practical tips for success.
If this blog serves as a starting point and spurs others who have succeeded to offer their formula for success, we would feel we had succeeded - we do not claim to have answers, but do believe we have important questions. There are many ways to succeed in the state department and we think there are many voices that could guide and benefit the apprentices out there as they travel toward diplomatic "journeyperson" status. We hope this blog can serve as a forum for that guidance and for those voices. If you would like to contribute, please email us at email@example.com.