The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2017
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During the early days of the Rwandan geno-

cide I spoke several times with one of the senior perpe-

trators, demanding that the killing stop and eventually

advising him he would be held personally accountable for his

role. He obviously did not listen, and Washington colleagues

mocked me for my attempts. But at least I was doing something,

and I never regretted the effort. That individual is now serving a

life sentence in prison.

Rwanda taught me to leave no stone unturned or cage

unrattled if I wanted to understand local events or get unpopular

decisions made in Washington. I tried for two years in Nairobi to

get attention paid to the security vulnerabilities of our chancery

and failed. But I did try. And that made all of the difference for

me after 213 people died and thousands of lives changed forever.

The so-called “long war”—

which the East Africa bomb-

ings presaged—will not likely

end under this administra-

tion’s time in office. Nor will

globalization, poverty and

climate change—or, for that

matter, the State Department’s

need for sustained, effective

leadership at all levels.

Since leadership train-

ing at mid- and early senior

levels became mandatory a

decade ago, energetic, ground-up initiatives like iLead (a group

of State employees dedicated to improving leadership at State)

and activities like the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ peer training

programs have grown. They persevere in transforming a culture

that valued individual achievement, conformity and hierar-

chy to one that respects team work, diverse perspectives and

shared goals. The quality of our nation’s international activities

rests in the capable hands of the diplomats of the State Depart-

ment and USAID; and they need intentional leadership at the

top, not just among themselves. That does not just happen.

These are my lessons, my story. Others have much more to

share with anyone who wants to ask, listen and act. Action is,

after all, the essence of leadership. I wish you a legacy that his-

tory, and your great-grandchildren, will find positive.


helped. When I was in leadership mode I was thinking stra-

tegically, acting intentionally and behaving with the integrity

people demanded. Nothing just happened.


Take care of your people, and the rest will take care

of itself.

This piece of advice from Ambassador Don

Leidel, a former boss and mentor at the Foreign Service

Institute, popped into my head 24 hours after the bombing in

Nairobi, at a moment when I was bombarded with conflicting

demands. It became my mantra and leadership philosophy,

but it was not easy. It meant addressing poor performance and

people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, challenging

archaic department traditions and regulations, and creat-

ing waves to make change. But Don was right. We overcame

extraordinary challenges, and

we did it together.

I saw what can happen

when we do not take care of

people, particularly the peo-

ple we employ locally. When

I returned to Rwanda shortly

after the killing had stopped,

I represented Washington at

the memorial service for col-

leagues who died in the geno-

cide. I was keenly aware that

we had agreed to bar Rwan-

dan citizens from our evacuating diplomatic convoys in order

to ensure safe passage for U.S. passport holders. I understood

the bargain, and as I stared into the stoic faces of the survivors I

also understood their sense of betrayal.

I felt it myself when, after 9/11, I learned how much vital

information about al-Qaida activities in the 1990s had been

withheld from me by colleagues in other agencies when I was

chief of mission in Nairobi. Afterward, the failure to review

intelligence practices and policy failures meant that nothing

would change in the way we were collecting and sharing intel-

ligence—until al-Qaida attacked the homeland.


Take care of yourself.

My body needed rest and exer-

cise, my mind needed distraction, and my spirit needed

healing. I confess I was a good role model, intentionally

taking time out and demanding that others do so, as well. No

one declared World War III. Stiff upper lips, overworking and

sleep deprivation could not produce the leadership style of

energy and optimism I wanted to convey and nurture.

Rwanda taught me to leave

no stone unturned or cage

unrattled if I wanted to

understand local events

or get unpopular decisions

made inWashington.