The Foreign Service Journal - September 2014 - page 20

often suit their organizational missions.
(6) A recognition by the Service
that personal rank and salary do not
necessarily have to equate to manage-
ment responsibilities at the top. While
the Service needs good management,
it especially needs good—even excel-
lent—professional judgment and
persuasive skills, which are normally
developed by FSOs as they gain experi-
Presidents are not elected primar-
ily for their management skills, nor
are Secretaries of State so chosen. So
why do we think that senior diplomats,
dealing with similar affairs of state,
should be so judged—and be selected
out if they cannot all squeeze into top
management positions?
As much or more rides on the abil-
ity of Foreign Service practitioners to
analyze, report and persuade others,
both at home and abroad, regarding a
foreign situation or a U.S. foreign policy
Success in these skills is also the
secret to leadership of other govern-
ment agencies. We can only manage
their foreign activities if they, too,
respect our expertise, based on our
successful performance, and not just at
the top.
(7) Recognition that the principal
attraction of the Foreign Service is that
of any other profession (e.g., teach-
ing, economics, law, journalism, the
military)—the nature of the life and
work itself. Financial rewards in the FS
are certainly limited and not primary
motivators. Also limited are high rank,
titles and promotions; they, too, should
not be primary motivators.
Foreign Service work consists of
helping to formulate, and then carry
out, U.S. foreign policy, and generally
to conduct the business of the U.S.
government abroad. This means under-
standing how foreign governments and
their people think and operate. Dedica-
tion, experience, interest in foreign
cultures and commitment to a life of
service alongside others with similar
ambitions—along with a willingness to
accept physical dangers, health risks
and psychological vicissitudes—should
remain the primary motivators.
The Service can afford to sacrifice
some rapidity of promotion to avoid
slotting officers into positions for which
they are not ready (thus avoiding the
“Peter Principle”) and keep experi-
enced people in the ranks, doing what
they do best, even if they never reach
the top.
(8) As to arguments in favor of a
“half-dozen good people” to control
policymaking in Washington, and the
concomitant desire for a special track
to produce them, let the Service build
one informally. But make this the
exception, not the rule.
Those who have a significant role
in formulating Washington policy (as
distinct from providing the factual basis
and analysis on which such policy is
based) will always be a small minority.
The Service can afford to keep experienced
people in the ranks, doing what they do
best, even if they never reach the top.
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