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Diplomacy and protocol for captains of industry

Opinion & Analysis
Great leaders must learn to adapt quickly to different cultural norms, communication styles and business practices to effectively navigate diverse diplomatic environments.

AS a country we operate in a volatile business environment. Many people are entrepreneurs or self-employed.

That alone has cultivated a culture of people not caring much about diplomacy and protocol because they are used to the so-called kungwavhangwavha/ ukuhlanganisa.

That business model does not have specific etiquette or decorum rules, because it lacks structure and systems.

That unstructured business model does not affect people in general, but it spills over to business or corporate leaders. This article seeks to empower executives or leaders in business on diplomacy and protocol. 

Diplomacy and protocol for captains of industry typically involves maintaining professionalism, basic grooming and etiquette, understanding and respecting cultural norms and fostering positive corporate relationships with internal staff or external stakeholders.

Furthermore, a leader must understand proper etiquette for meetings, boardroom dynamics, effective communication as well as being mindful of hierarchies and titles and navigating various situations diplomatically.

We live in a connected world where one needs to stay abreast with global trends and being able to maintain international relations and  enhance diplomatic interactions on a global scale.

Professional appearance

It is generally said, we are addressed the way we are dressed. Other people would say, do not dress like a suspect, but like an expert.

Maintaining a polished and professional appearance sets the tone for diplomatic interactions, instilling confidence and respect among counterparts.

Effective communication

Last week, we wrote about effective communication for chief executive officers and I highly recommend that you read the article. This is a skill every executive must improve on all the time.

Clear, creative, convincing and concise communication helps executives convey their message accurately and fosters mutual understanding in diplomatic engagements.


Great leaders must learn to adapt quickly to different cultural norms, communication styles and business practices to effectively navigate diverse diplomatic environments.

This takes agility and the ability to learn other cultural norms fast. Executives should be aware of and respectful cultural differences in greetings, communication styles and business practices when dealing with their international partners.

Emotional intelligence

I recommend two books by Daniel Goleman and these are Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence.

Having high emotional intelligence enables executives to manage their own emotions and understand the emotions of others, crucial for effective diplomacy.

Active listening

Executives are always negotiating for deals and hence the need for active listening and paying attention to detail.

Executives should practice active listening during negotiations and discussions, demonstrating respect and understanding of others’ ideas and perspectives.

Respect for diplomatic protocol

A leader has to understand and adhere to diplomatic protocols. These protocols include, but not limited to, such things as proper titles and forms of address, respect for hierarchy, culture and tradition.

Remember, executives meet dignitaries and some travel to different places across the globe, so they need to understand and respect different cultures.

Conflict resolution skills

Executives work with people and they are prone to face conflicts. So, executives should possess strong conflict resolution skills to address those disagreements diplomatically and find mutually beneficial solutions.

Relationship building

Executives must be able to start, manage and maintain new relationships in business. Building and nurturing positive relationships with counterparts and stakeholders lays the foundation for successful diplomatic endeavours.

Global awareness

Executives must stay informed about global events or issues, political climates and general international relations. Staying abreast enhances the executives’ ability to navigate diplomatic challenges and seize opportunities effectively.

Parting point

Every executive must be an avid learner in order to master diplomacy and protocol. Also, leaders must engage the services of a trainer or coach to polish their decorum. Remember, in any business endeavour or transition, some people buy into the leader before they buy the product.

  • Jonah Nyoni is an author, speaker, and leadership trainer. He can be contacted on Twitter @jonahnyoni. WhatsApp: +263 772 581 918

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