Book - Harper Collins Publishers

Kissinger the Negotiator: Lessons from Dealmaking at the Highest Level

| May 08, 2018

 Kissinger the Negotiator: Lessons from Dealmaking at the Highest Level

In this groundbreaking, definitive guide to the art of negotiation, three Harvard professors—all experienced negotiators—offer a comprehensive examination of one of the most successful dealmakers of all time.

Politicians, world leaders, and business executives around the world—including every President from John F. Kennedy to Donald J. Trump—have sought the counsel of Henry Kissinger, a brilliant diplomat and historian whose unprecedented achievements as a negotiator have been universally acknowledged. Now, for the first time, Kissinger the Negotiator provides a clear analysis of Kissinger’s overall approach to making deals and resolving conflicts—expertise that holds powerful and enduring lessons.

When the world urgently needs potent diplomacy and negotiation, who are the true masters of these arts? What can we learn from them about the most effective approaches to public and private dealmaking? Complex, skilled, and controversial, Henry Kissinger is often singled out for this distinction. For example, Walter Isaacson, Kissinger’s often-critical biographer, called him the “foremost American negotiator” of his time.

Kissinger’s geopolitical insights, controversial policies, and individual negotiations have been extensively analyzed. Yet perhaps surprisingly, no serious cross-cutting study of Kissinger’s overall approach has extracted its lessons for current diplomatic and business negotiations.

While rancorous political and social divisions polarized the United States, especially over the bloody Vietnam War, Kissinger undertook his most crucial negotiations. The former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner played key negotiating roles in major foreign policy achievements: the opening to China after decades of mutual hostility, détente and the first nuclear arms control treaty with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, the Paris peace accords with North Vietnam after years of bitter conflict (though the deal collapsed after two years), and Egyptian and Syrian disengagement deals with Israel following their 1973 war— that have endured to this day. In addition, Kissinger worked out a significant but largely forgotten agreement with Rhodesia’s Ian Smith to accept black majority rule many years before the end of apartheid in South Africa.

This book draws on the authors’ extensive interviews with Kissinger as well as careful study of his writings and those of many others, both critical and supportive. In an engaging narrative, it answers several questions that offer valuable lessons for today’s negotiators: How did Kissinger do these deals? What strategies and tactics worked and what failed? Why, how, and under what conditions? What ethical challenges does this approach present?

This book neither aims to judge Kissinger nor to set the historical record straight. Rather, by plumbing a career of extraordinary effectiveness, it seeks to learn as much as possible, extracting useful insights into the art and science of negotiation from Kissinger’s dealmaking at the highest level.

Essential reading for current and future leaders, Kissinger the Negotiator is an invaluable guide to reaching agreements in challenging situations.

Peer Comments

James A. Baker III, Sixty-first U.S. Secretary of State:

"Henry Kissinger’s acute understanding of all aspects of international negotiations, from his close attention to detail to his uncanny ability to craft effective negotiating strategies, has made him one of the most highly regarded diplomats in American history. Kissinger the Negotiator is a straightforward examination of Kissinger’s finely honed skills in statecraft that offers keen insight for anyone interested or involved in negotiations at any level."

John Chambers, Chairman Emeritus, Cisco Systems, Inc.; CEO, JC2 Ventures:

"Henry Kissinger’s negotiating record is legendary. In this engaging book, the authors were able to get to the root of his tactics and successes, and share practical insights for readers. I would highly recommend Kissinger the Negotiator for anyone facing challenging negotiations in business or diplomacy."

Walter Isaacson, Professor of History, Tulane University; Author of 'Kissinger: A Biography, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin':

"Henry Kissinger was a masterly negotiator with a sense of both tactics and strategy. This book, based on deep interviews and research, shows his strengths and weaknesses as well as, most importantly, the lessons to be learned from his most complex endeavors."

Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder, Blackstone:

"Kissinger the Negotiator is a fascinating book about one of the most talented and unique strategists on the world stage who is thoughtful, strategic, charming when necessary and assertive when not. There is lots to learn by having his most important negotiations analyzed by academic experts who had extensive discussions with him about the thought process that drove his strategic and tactical choices in highly challenging situations. I found the book exciting to read. Others who spend their lives negotiating important matters will as well. Required reading for those interested in affecting the world of affairs."

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Sebenius, James, Nicholas Burns and Robert H. Mnookin. Kissinger the Negotiator: Lessons from Dealmaking at the Highest Level. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2018.

The Authors

Nicholas Burns


jenry kissinger