A noteworthy meeting :The following Monday, November 5, I had a long breakfast meeting and conversation with Jamil Mahuad, former president of Ecuador, to whom I had been introduced by a common friend.
In the early days of his presidency, in 1998, Mahuad negotiated a historic agreement with Peru, an accord that ended a series long-standing border disputes between the two countries. In the words of then US president Bill Clinton, the definitive peace treaty “ended the longest source of armed conflict in this hemisphere.” Since his resignation as president in 2000, Mahuad has been a Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Mahuad is a humble and reflective man who impressed me with his listening skills and emotional intelligence. In our discussion, I was particularly interested in his account of the peace negotiation with Peru, a remarkable outcome that Mahuad attributes to the relationship of trust and respect he was able to cultivate with his Peruvian counterpart Alberto Fujimori.
To me, this peace agreement is a story of using systems thinking to change the context of a discussion in order to create a win-win dynamic in the negotiating process. Presidents Mahuad and Fujimori were able to shift the mindset and the focus of the negotiation. Rather than see themselves as political bargainers and adversaries, they became partners in the search for a peaceful and equitable solution that would be accepted by the populations of both countries.
Today, Mahuad lectures on the importance of trust in any challenging negotiation. Bargainers should built a climate of confidence by getting to know each other as individuals, and by sharing their personal stories of identity. Of course, we found that his approach has much in common with my views on understanding the other party in any business or political arrangement, and the crucial role of authentic storytelling in the process.
My breakfast with former president Mahuad was a wonderful first contact. We talked of how we can work together in the future, and I am confident we will make that happen. Also, in the coming weeks, I plan to interview him about how he has been able to use his personal stories as a tool for self-expression throughout his career.