The Foreign Service Journal - November 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2017 19 Owning Leadership BY M I CHAE L PE L L ET I ER Michael Pelletier, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, is dean of the School of Professional and Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute. He was formerly the deputy chief of mission to India. Prior to this he served as the deputy assistant secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs in the Bureau of African Affairs, as minister-counselor for public affairs and public diplo- macy at Embassy New Delhi (2009-2012), and as the U.S. government’s Arabic-language spokesman and founding director of the Arabic Regional Public Diplomacy Hub in Dubai. He has also served in Amman, Dakar, Bamako, Kaduna, Cairo and Chennai. He is married to Sujatha Pelletier, and they have two sons. O ver the last several months, we have bid farewell to many of our mentors and former leaders, officers and col- leagues who taught us much of what we know of the practice of diplomacy and of being a part of the Department of State. This has led many to regret a perceived dearth of leaders in the department and the foreign affairs com- munity. While I certainly share the sense of missing so many of my former col- leagues and friends in the hallways, I think we all must actively reject the idea that we lack leaders. Rather, I firmly believe this is a moment when we all have an opportunity—indeed, a respon- sibility—to step up and own our own leadership roles in the department. We must honor the legacy and the teach- ings of those who preceded us and take up the mantle of leadership ourselves. We have a rare and perhaps unique chance to step up and help build and maintain a Department of State of which we can all be proud. That will take many individual acts of leadership across the department every day at all levels. We all profess to support and encourage professional development and training opportunities for our teams. We now must make the tough decisions to make that support real. While it is inconvenient and difficult to handle a staffing gap due to a team member being out for training or to pursue a professionally enhancing opportunity outside the office, we must live up to our declarations of support and actually encourage and reward our team members for taking up such opportunities. I was a deputy chief of mission at a very busy post, and I know how difficult it can be to make such decisions. They are in the best long-term interest of the department, but can make meeting immediate deadlines difficult. If we are to be the leaders we should be, and if we are to build the department we want to leave for the next generation, we must make those tough decisions. We all profess to support and value diversity in the workplace, as it is so vital to truly represent all of these great United States of America and to get the full benefit of all of the ideas, experi- ences and insights of our entire work- force. We now must show leadership and ensure that our decisions reflect the value we place on that diversity—in terms of professional development opportunities, in terms of hiring, in terms of seeking out and valuing input and debate. We are all busy and rushing to meet deadlines, but we must dem- onstrate the leadership skill to take an extra moment to ensure that all voices and opinions and thoughts are truly heard and considered. Each of us, in his or her own role, has myriad opportunities to show leader- ship and to shape the department and the Service in some way, large or small. Our choices about how we engage in our offices, divisions and bureaus—the behavior we model daily—are oppor- SPEAKING OUT We have a rare and perhaps unique chance to step up and help build and maintain a Department of State of which we can all be proud.