George Kohlrieser on Working with the Middle East
George Kohlrieser is an organizational and clinical psychologist, a professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at The International Institute for Management Development (IMD), and consultant to global organizations around the world.
His research, teaching, and consulting activities are focused on high performance leadership, high performance teamwork, conflict management, change management, dialogue and negotiation, coaching, stress management, work life balance, and personal and professional development. He is also a Police Psychologist and Hostage Negotiator focusing on aggression management and hostage negotiations. Kohlrieser is founder and director of Shiloah International, a consultancy offering integrated programs to a wide range of organizations. He has worked in some eighty-five countries in North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Middle East, Asia, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Kohlrieser completed his doctorate at Ohio State University where he wrote his dissertation on cardio vascular recovery of law enforcement leaders following high stress situations. He is also the author of a recent book entitled Hostage At The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance.
Well, in fact, I was in Iran in December with a business school process speaking to 1500 Iranian business leaders. I happened to ascribe to the belief that we do need to build bonds. We do need to build dialog. Now, the question comes, how do you set a stage for that? How do you build in preconditions? I think to say that we will not talk until certain preconditions of what we want are met is a dangerous path. Now, I’m not saying that you wouldn’t sometimes do that. But, fundamentally, whether it’s the Middle East and the occupied territories, if it’s with Iran, if it’s with Al Qaeda, the more we can understand that conflict management is around how do you build the relationship and how do you then direct the psychological process towards a common goal. And, again, leaders must do this within organizations and leaders must do this in all other kinds of situations as well without dialog, without talking, and this does not mean it is nice conversations. These are heart-to-heart talks. The Islamic West dialogs that I’ve been involved in they’re sometimes very, very strong exchanges. We need to have the truth put on the table in order to be able to find what common goals are behind that. And then you start looking for the psychological leaders as well as the former leaders who have the power to be a secure base and guide people to come towards a common goal. What we’re missing today, I think in leadership at a fundamental level is courage. The courage to, first of all, create a vision, understand visions of other people, be able to engage in that dialog and say to people here is the pain that has to be endured in order for a greater benefit. And it doesn’t work if you’re not able to really sell that pain for some greater benefit around common goals, not individual goals, but common goals.
Before the Middle East and the West can define their common goals, they need "have the truth put on the table."