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Lessons from a Life in Diplomacy

Simon McDonald



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Haus Publishing
31 May 2024
A British diplomat shares lessons on leadership gained over his expansive career.

Simon McDonald argues that we should reflect on the nature and strategies of leadership before entering a leadership role, and we should look to examples of others to help us in shaping our own approaches.

Over nearly four decades in Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service, McDonald worked for four permanent under-secretaries and a dozen senior ambassadors before becoming a permanent under-secretary himself and leading the Service—which has over 14,000 staff members in 270 countries—for five years. He also worked directly for six foreign secretaries and under five prime ministers. Observing these people undertaking such important and difficult work, McDonald saw the behaviors which helped them achieve their objectives, as well as those which hindered them.

In this book, McDonald synthesizes the skills he's learned through his many years working in diplomacy, offering an insightful contribution amid heightening debates over the leadership of the United Kingdom. Considering the future of British leadership, he makes a case for the reform of the monarchy, the cabinet, civil service, and, in particular, the House of Lords, of which he has been a member since 2021.
Imprint:   Haus Publishing
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm, 
ISBN:   9781913368876
ISBN 10:   1913368874
Pages:   302
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Simon McDoanld was the British ambassador to Germany and later permanent under-secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and head of Diplomatic Service. He is master of Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Reviews for Leadership: Lessons from a Life in Diplomacy

‘Leadership displays the virtues you might expect of a top diplomat: it is elegantly written, discreet and observant.’ Gideon Rachman, Financial Times; ‘An enjoyable read packed with insights from someone who was ‘‘on the spot’’ when the United Kingdom responded to significant international challenges.’ House Magazine; ‘An original, very well-written, and serious book which adds to the quality of public discussion.’ Anthony Seldon; ‘This is a book full of riches – a despatch from deep inside the British state about how it really operates and how it could be run better. In places, Simon McDonald wields his fluent pen like a blowtorch. His candour burns the page. Some of the most eminent in the land will rush to the index. Some will be right to tremble if they find their name.’ Peter Hennessy; ‘The author’s observations are widely applicable and strengthened by a strong understanding of history.’ The Edge, Malaysia;

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