Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mediator Power

Since the first of the year, the US has begun to reshape its foreign policy approach and commentators have talked about using “soft power” instead of “hard power” to achieve policy goals. This got me to thinking about mediator power.

I came up with the following lists to divide mediator power into hard and soft power.


Direct process

Evaluative focus

Challenge participant views


Objectify decision making

Solely a business decision

Authority over process

No food

Separate participants


Follow process
Relational focus
Support multiple perspectives

Objectify and subjectify decision making

Business and personal decision

hare process authority
Work with participants together and separately

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list and I’m not sure the respective powers are so clearly separated; rather, they may be on a continuum. With this in mind, let’s consider the first, process leading versus following, as an example.

On one end of the spectrum you have the mediator who leads the process and makes all the process decisions. These will generally include - Who should talk first, when to meet in private caucus, when to stop the mediation, etc. This mediator is firmly in control of the mediation process.

On the other end, is the mediator who follows, asking “Who would like to start?” or “Do you need a break or a private meeting at this time?” This mediator does not control the process.

In reality I suspect that most mediators move between hard and soft power depending on their mediation framework and the needs of the participants. I certainly find value in following the lead of participants and I often present process ideas to move discussions. I suppose I take the “both – and” approach with hard and soft power. Perhaps you do too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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