With All Due Respect, by Nikki R. Haley. Book report #9 (2023)

With All Due Respect, by Nikki R. Haley. Pub 2019

I had previously listened to the audiobook version of this a few years ago, and liked some of what Haley has to say on leadership. Since I didn’t have any notes from that listen, I decided to read it again, partially for the leadership elements and partly as a response to the casual misogyny (“she’s past her prime“) and racism (“an alpha Karen with brown skin“) that she’s now experiencing as part of her presidential campaign. I felt she deserved another listen to help make up for that.

I found in the book what I remember from the audiobook. In leadership, Haley expresses grounded confidence and a candid openness that is refreshing in politics. About being offered the role of Secretary of State: “You can be confident and believe in yourself. But you also have to know what it takes to be great at something. You have to know when you’re ready and when you’re not.” (Spoiler alert: she was not.) About communicating with the President (and everyone at the White House): “Don’t talk for the sake of talking. When you say something, make it matter.” About decision-making, she has a 24-hour rule – in difficult situations, check your immediate instincts to respond; waiting allows you to pick – and win – your battles more effectively. She also received and followed some good advice about diplomacy and negotiation (aka conflict resolution) – put yourself in your adversary’s shoes. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to understand their motivations if you’re going to make any progress.

About speaking your mind, especially as a woman in leadership, she has the experience to know that if you are strong about your opinions and values and you say so, some others will resent you (especially when you’re right). She says, “…if you’re a woman, you have to stand up for yourself. Always. You don’t have to be ugly about it. You should do it with grit and grace.” She was talking about politics, but that is no less true in almost any environment.

Haley is articulate and firm on her positions and values, while demonstrating an ability to hear out alternative viewpoints. The alternatives don’t change her mind, but she does give them what she advertises – respect.

When it comes to the racism she’s experienced throughout her life, her own philosophy is, to me, refreshing: “…I have refused to let it define me. Pain is real. Victimhood is a choice.” In another passage, she refers to a philosophy and approach that comes through in her stories from her time as Governor and as Ambassador: “(the) job is not to show people how you are different. Your job is to show them how you are similar.” This comes out in her negotiations around the flag issue in South Carolina and her approach regarding South Sudan, North Korea, and Syria; she starts with the people and citizens and looks for common ground as a place to start the discussion, and with the leaders tries to get to what they are really trying to accomplish as a place to start discussion.

In many of her stories, she is clearly moved by the challenges and suffering of people, and she uses that as the foundation for several of her successes. The flag removal was driven by her desire to remove a symbol that would remind citizens of the horrors of the past, as made vividly real in the Charleston shootings. Much of her work on North Korea was driven by her desire to achieve some kind of justice for Otto Warmbler. She was motivated and sustained in other efforts by seeing photos from Syria of chemical weapons victims and by meeting in South Sudan with refugee mothers.

The policies and her politics are not appealing to everyone. However, it is clear that she has values and conviction, is articulate and unafraid to speak-up, and has demonstrated her ability to be calm, thoughtful, decisive, and strong in difficult and powerful roles and situations. Near the end of the book, she returns to that philosophy of focusing on commonalities: “We need to remind each other that we have more in common than we have differences. We need to look at the person who disagrees with us and not see a person as evil, but as someone who is a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a professional, and an American.” Regardless of political stripe, that is a worthwhile message for all.

8 – a book with a female author
23 – a memoir
25 – a new author to me
31 – a book about history/politics

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