Sometimes, as Robert Mnookin puts it, you have to “bargain with the devil.” David Brooks offers a primer on the challenges of political (and diplomatic) leadership. For example, how do you deal with people who believe in their bones something different from your side?
The craftsman has to accept the hard reality that the other side also believes these things. It is extremely unlikely that one side will convince the other, or the country. The craftsman can hope for some final ideological victory, but he can’t realistically expect one.
Given that reality, then how do you know when to make the smart compromise:
Fifth, the craftsman has to distinguish between existential issues and business issues. Winston Churchill would have made a terrible mistake if he had compromised with the appeasers. On the other hand, Dan Rostenkowski and Robert Packwood were absolutely right to compromise to get the tax reform of 1986 passed.
The craftsman has to understand that in the middle of the fight almost every issue will feel like an existential issue, though, in reality, 98 percent of legislative conflicts are business issues.
Diplomacy and politics work in similar ways. They are based on relationships–not the smarmy kinds that you read about in self-help or leadership books. Brooks has a great way of expressing this:
Seventh, the craftsman has to be socially promiscuous. Deal-making is about friendship. The craftsman has to work on relationships all day every day. It’s not enough to talk to your adversaries in negotiations. You have to talk to them when nothing is happening. You have to talk to them when they are up, when they are down. You have to celebrate their anniversaries and birthdays.