Tag Archives: Leadership

The Essential Leadership Skill – Managing Office Politics

The Essential Leadership Skill – Managing Office Politics

One of the skills that successful leaders need to master is a bit of a dirty word these days. It’s not the sort of thing they offer leadership training courses on, but it lies at the heart of most business relationships. What I’m talking about is office politics.

When we call someone ‘a political animal’, we’re often not being complimentary. We tend to mean that they’re manipulative and untrustworthy, maybe even immoral or dishonest.

A person who’s good at politics, in our eyes, is someone who likes to score points over others, who tries to scramble to the top of the heap over his or her colleagues.

But politics isn’t all about manipulation. There’s more to it than that. And whether we like it or not, politics is everywhere in the workplace and a good leader needs to know how to make the most of it.

So what does politics have to do with good leadership? Well, to start with, politics involves being aware of the effects your words and actions have on others. And – even more importantly – it also means knowing how to influence people.

In an earlier article, we touched on leading change as a political process, but let’s focus for a moment on your interpersonal political skills in leading change negotiating, persuading, influencing. These leadership skills are essential for success and survival.

In a way, introducing change into an organization is like running a political campaign. If you get it right, your people will support you and your decisions.

How to get your people to accept change:

1. First, set up your campaign team. This isn’t just your fellow leaders, who’ve helped you draw up the plan behind the scenes, it’s also the movers and shakers in your organization. You need to identify them carefully and well. These are the people who can influence OTHER people. Perhaps the people that you can’t reach. If the movers and shakers know about and support what you’re doing, the job will be that much easier.

2. Now prepare yourself. You and your fellow leaders have been working on the plan for a long time. You know how much work has gone into it, and you know how vital it is for your business. Now is the time to get everyone else on board. But be prepared: not everyone’s going to like it.

3. Let the debate go on. Listen to what everyone says: be careful not to spend all your time with people who agree with you. Your fiercest opponents are valuable people: they help you gauge the level of resistance, they set out the arguments you need to defeat, and, if they eventually come round to your way of thinking, they will be some of your most valuable supporters.

The politics of business:

1. Find allies in ALL parts of the organization: you can exchange vital information that you might otherwise not have access to. And you can form coalitions, so together you can influence current and future developments.

2. Intervene in the political processes of the organization: share agendas, influence decisions and decision-makers.

3. Make sure you’re not simply surrounded by ‘yes’ men and women. You need to listen to the devil’s advocates – that way, you’re less likely to make mistakes.

There’s more, of course, there’s more. But deal with office politics on a project by project basis and you won’t go too far wrong. Leadership is sometimes described as a contact sport. It isn’t so much what you know as who you know.

So let me ask you this: who do YOU know?

If you want the leadership success you deserve, get the leadership training you deserve. Download more free articles and leadership training videos from Steven Sonsino, an international business school professor and author of the Amazon bestseller “The Seven Failings of Really Useless Leaders”
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Leadership Tips — Office Politics

Leadership Tips — Office Politics

Political Expert


For many years that’s what people called me.  It was not a title I wore proudly. 


I worked my way from entry level programmer to senior management in a large telecom company.  I knew a lot of people, and I had a great sense for how to work within the “system”.  I understood how it could overwhelm you, and I got good at knowing when to ignore it and when to play along.


In the jobs I had, the most important contribution I could make over the long haul was to develop the skills of the middle managers reporting to me.  The more effective I could make them, the easier and more successful my life would be.  It was frustrating to me when I would coach people and they would respond with comments like “I could pull this off if I had your political skills”.


I was insulted.  I didn’t play politics!


Of course I did.  I just didn’t want to admit it.  When you’re running for office, political skills are an important attribute.  When you are the guy running a business office, politician is a label that diminishes your true leadership abilities.


If anyone accused me of being an expert at office politics, I denied it forcefully.  I worked hard to get where I was, and no one was going to take that away from me.


Then I Changed Jobs


Same industry, bigger title, more people, new city.  I was not well connected, of course.  But I recognized the challenges of the job and I was ready to go to work on them.  Costs were out of control and results were inconsistent.  I had to fix both.  It was made clear to me that I was being brought in from outside because the inside culture needed a shakeup.  I couldn’t wait to jump in.


Was I successful?  Without a doubt, I accomplished more in two years in this new job than in any five year period of my career.  We downsized, actually improved morale while we were doing it, and got our operational metrics up where they needed to be.  My clients were internal, and they were effusive in their praise.  Personally, I was rewarded with a good raise and a really good bonus.


Six months later I experienced a career first — I was fired.  Well, alright, I was let go with a very respectable severance package.  But I didn’t see it coming, and it didn’t feel very good.  What happened?


When I took the new job, lots of people whispered in my ear about the politics in my new company.  It wasn’t very complicated either.  There were old guard insiders and when outside executives were brought in the old guard eventually rejected them the way the body rejects tissue in a transplant operation.


I wouldn’t get caught up in that.  I had a job to do and I was going to do it.  No political posturing for me.  I was in full denial.


So I worked very hard and got some of the greatest results of my career.  While I was doing that, there was a change at the top. The new CEO was a former executive of the company who had left and now was coming back.  He was a hero of the old guard. 


I wasn’t thrilled with the board’s choice, but I wasn’t worried.  My hard work and accomplishments would stand up to scrutiny, no matter who was in charge, right?  Wrong.


Learn the Right Lesson Here!


The obvious lesson might be that politics are real and you’d better play the game well if you’re going to succeed, no matter where you go.  But that’s not it.


Yes, office politics are real, no denying that.  As a leader, it’s important that you gain an understanding of the political landscape in which you are working.  Not so you can play the game — so you can avoid getting caught up in it.


Think about the successful leaders you know, the ones who rise to the top.  The vast majority of those I know didn’t get to where they are today by crushing their in house competition in the game of office politics.  They got there by crushing their external competitors and serving their clients better than anyone else.


Along the way, they were politically aware, but not politically active.  They built relationships with everyone they could.  While others around them came and went, they thrived because of those relationships and because of their relentless focus on the end game.


Live in denial and the smarter politicians in your office will be deciding your fate for you.  You won’t even know it.


Get good at office politics and you’ll score some wins; a promotion or two, a few awards here and there.  For most, though, the game eventually catches up with them and their political nature becomes career limiting.


Understand office politics well enough to avoid getting caught up in the wrong debates.  Focus on clients, growth and other key goals.  Build relationships with everyone you meet.  Know the game, and then refuse to play.  That’s how the best rise to the top.

The organization that isn’t changing is dying. For more leadership ideas, along with strategies for managing change, visit www.thomasjodea.com.

Tom O’Dea has over 30 years of IT experience, with 20 years of senior leadership in IT and Professional Services with multibillion dollar corporations.

True Leadership in American Politics Requires Informed Voters

True Leadership in American Politics Requires Informed Voters

I have always been a political junkie. I mean, I love keeping abreast of both the local and national political scene. It intrigues me how citizens like you and I can rise to positions of power in local, state, and federally elected offices. Currently, we are witnessing a historic national democratic primary, facilitated by two popular candidates. On one hand, you have Illinois state senator Barack Obama who enjoys an almost rock star appeal. On the other hand, you have New York state senator Hillary Clinton who is using all of her power and influence to try to reclaim the White House. Now, I would agree that to the average political junkie like me (republican, democrat, or independent), this primary season is entertaining to say the least. Nevertheless I question, does the attainment of political office in today’s political atmosphere inspire leadership in our elected officials? Some may answer yes, citing former mayor of New York City, Rudolph Guliani’s handling of 9/11 as proof that American politicians are leaders. However, I’m not so easily convinced.

I am not so quick to agree with such arguments because even though American politicians have been using the term leadership in their campaigns since forever, I don’t think that we the American people require our elected officials to be true leaders. And when I say true leaders, I mean those that govern based on sound thinking, courage, vision, compassion, and don’t bow to the pressures of doing or saying whatever is necessary to be elected. For ever American politician that one can cite as having these qualities, there is another that displays the opposite. If this is the case, how can American voters decide on who to vote for in elections and shift the political conversation from simply elected officials to true elected leaders?

This question is hard to answer for the average American voter as political campaigns are loaded with high-priced consultants, pollsters, and spin doctors, all aimed to confuse you but still garner your vote. Every political season, American voters are bombarded with flyers, phone calls, advertisements, and pundits telling us either who we should vote for, or what issues should matter most to us. With this constant diet of propaganda, it is no wonder that so many Americans are disenfranchised with the political process and don’t vote on Election Day. However, the problem with this approach is that when we don’t vote, we are turning over our collective voice to the small percentage (relative to the total American population) that do vote. This means that any given candidate can get elected and claim to be a leader, simply by appealing to his/her party’s base (core voting group), leaving those that did not vote out in the cold if their views don’t coincide with the newly elected politician’s.

So, how do we demonstrate our collective voice and force our elected officials to govern as true leaders so that we get a political system that energizes the American public to participate? Well first off, you have to become an informed citizen. Informed in regards to:

How the political system works (the roles of the three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive)
How laws are created and passed
What the local, state, and federal election issues are, and how they can potentially impact you
Which candidates are running for which offices, and their corresponding platforms

In order to achieve all of this, that’s right, you have to research and read. I can’t stress this enough.
Doing your own research more than any other means of processing information, will remove your ignorance and disenfranchisement pertaining to our political process.

After learning about the political process, issues, candidates, and their platforms, you should observe the candidates in debates. Determine what you like and dislike about their responses, alliances, posture, appearance, etc. Listen to the political pundits as well, but not so they can determine for you, who to vote for, but for them to add to your wealth of information regarding the candidates and the issues at play. They may have access to information that you may not.

Also, try and discuss your political views in situations where you feel it is safe to exchange ideas without persecution or judgment so that you can get different perspectives regarding a given candidate or issue as it relates to other citizens that may not necessarily share your views because of a difference in background. But do be clear that this may be difficult for some to do because politics can be a testy subject to discuss if the environment is not supportive of open and diverse points of view.

Finally, vote!!!!!!! Vote for the issues or candidates that best serve you and your constituents’ purposes. Our elected officials can be true leaders if those that are voting make informed choices. Only then can the politicians that are put in office be expected to lead. Think about this as you evaluate those running for office in your hometown, state, and national offices this coming November.

After years of self-inquiry and discovery, coupled with significant academic research in the field of leadership development, Dr. Barrett, Ph.D., M.S. is now ready to teach individuals and organizations what it takes to become a leader utilizing an inside-out approach.

George Carlin brings TRUTH to the masses using comedy. Rest in Peace George.
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