David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

Managing Diplomacy in a Tunnel

Leadership gurus with catchy phrases abounded in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Too few company leaders had patience to read the extensive body of work by organizational gurus W Edward Deming or Peter Drucker. Impatience required leadership concepts and books like The One Minute Manager.

A popular phrase back then was Managing By Walking Around (MBWA).

MBWA is a concept that a leader can only truly know what is taking place in his company, his organization, his anything, by walking around. Literally. Not by phone, emails, conference calls, or meetings but by being ‘on the floor’. The leader has to see it to feel it. No amount of second hand information can replace hands on.

It’s a good phrase to introduce to world leaders lining up to criticize Israel for this latest conflict in Gaza. “Show restraint, disproportionate killings, targeting women children elderly disabled”.

Secretary of State Kerry landed in Egypt today to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Since US policy is not to talk directly to Hamas (only to send them $$) he must rely on Egypt, Qatar and Turkey to speak on behalf of Hamas.

Let me suggest MBWA.

Sitting in Egypt and talking by phone thru secured communication with representatives in distant places, doesn’t give you a true feel for what is happening on ‘the shop floor’.

Secretary Kerry, President Sisi of Egypt, The Emir of Qatar, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon should meet at the opening of a tunnel Hamas has burrowed into Israel or they can meet in a tunnel in Gaza that originates under a mosque or hospital.

Certainly other world leaders from England, France, The Arab League are all welcome.

The Prime Ministers of Canada and Australia need not attend. They get it.

They will not need to shuttle, no secure telephones required, they will not need any field reports, they can venture out into the streets of Gaza to talk to the common folk, they can spend time in a shelter in Sderot talking to frightened children, they can meet with leaders of Israel and Hamas who are literally right there. They can attend funerals in Gaza and Israel. This is managing by walking around. This is getting a feel for the war.

Sitting in Cairo talking to intermediaries entrenched in their positions is so passé.

It’s proven not to work.

Put on a helmet and flak jacket.

Schedule a UN Security Council meeting in an Hamas tunnel. Direct participation no distance shuttling. Show resilience as a leader. Don’t flinch when an air raid siren howls. Stay put just as Hamas encourages its people. Keep talking calmly in your best diplomatic voice as the rockets red glare and the bombs burst in air..

And then write a book.

About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.