Tom served as the foreign policy advisor to Blair, Brown and Cameron, before becoming British Ambassador to Lebanon (at the age of 36). He is now on the Global Tech Panel, promoting the UK creative sector, leading work on the future of learning, working with business to get millions into education, and has led influential reviews of the FCO and UN. His insider's view of modern international relations, Naked Diplomacy: Power & Statecraft in the Digital Age is the bestselling book on diplomacy ever written by a British author. Tom considers the 21st century survival skills we need as states, businesses and individuals.
Tom Fletcher was the UK’s youngest ever ambassador when he was appointed the country’s representative in Lebanon. Prior to his posting he worked as a foreign policy advisor in Downing Street under three Prime Ministers. As well as lessons from dealing with actors in the uniquely combustible region, he considers the nature of leadership and negotiation, the power of social media, and the future of engagement.
Tom has played a part in summits, negotiations and conferences at the highest level, whilst also overseeing the everyday aspects of representing the UK abroad. Tom was one of the pioneers of using digital and social media to interact with local populations (and bypass the diplomatic rules). In a time and a role where engaging publicly was viewed with at best suspicion, and often outright hostility, he saw it as giving a human face to diplomacy and the British government.
With examples (and anecdotes) from meetings with the likes of Merkel and Obama, Tom considers the importance of three elements of leadership – inspiration and vision, engagement, and implementation. He has debated with Hezbollah on Twitter, and job-swapped for a day with a teenage Ethiopian housekeeper to highlight the abuse domestic staff often suffer (she, on the other hand, grilled a senior politician and held a press conference). He provides an insight into the influence of social media and direct interaction with the people most affected by his work.
Believing more of the world wish to co-operate than build walls, Tom looks at the big picture issues of global power structures; how things are changing, and whether companies like Google should now be treated more like a nation than a business. He also examines ideas of engagement and values, the nature of modern leadership and how established cultures can change (and there are few cultures more established than that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UN – organisations he has led hard hitting reviews into).
Tom is the author of Naked Diplomacy: Power & Statecraft in the Digital Age, a look at diplomacy in the digital age and how the diplomatic world is facing challenges from a connected world, as well as the opportunities. The all-time bestselling British book on diplomacy. He advises the Global Business Coalition for Education which uses the private sector to help 59 million children into school. He is also a Visiting Professor of International Relations at New York University and the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, and an adviser to the Dubai Future Academy. His Foundation for Opportunity supports good people doing good things in public life. His most recent report sets out the survival skills we all need if we are to thrive in the 21st century.
Tom is a regular contributor to the New York Times, TLS, Prospect and a commentator on global politics on BBC, CNN, and Sky News. Alongside the serious insights Tom also recounts tales from behind the scenes including why Gordon Brown was laughing when Nicholas Sarkozy visited Number 10, a surprising response to David Cameron’s first G8 summit and why Obama thought he was unhygienic.
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Tom manages to do something that not many speakers can – make you feel optimistic about current affairs. While the world might seemingly be spiralling into despair, Tom explains why he believes the ‘co-existors’ will triumph over the wall builders, and that globalisation and digital communication will bring us together and not drive us apart. Humanity just has to try a little bit harder. JLA Agent Adam Harkness
JLA Speakers Breakfast