“How can you tell if a leader has political skills? The answer: if they appear not to have any such skills at all.” -Gerald Ferris
As you climb the corporate ladder, relational skills become increasingly more important than technical skills. Organisations can be intricate labyrinths of egos, conflict, gossip, rivalries, and sacred cows. And even though engaging in office politics is often perceived negatively, we are here to tell you that it is just as positive as it is unavoidable. As a leader, engaging in politics is not just about being political, but about being socially intelligent and influencing others so you can get things done, with the least amount of disruption and maximum benefit.
So, what exactly are political savvy leaders good at, and what can you do to raise your savvy?
Be a 360° team player! The importance of building partnerships and alliances in all directions cannot be emphasised enough. It is not easy to get your way on your own. Politically savvy leaders are aware of this, and build alliances both within and outside the organisation, with their colleagues and team members alike, in order to help them achieve their objectives.
Manage conflict. By separating the people from the problem, politically savvy leaders focus on the nature of the problem, not the person. In this way, conflict is kept small and concrete, to the advantage of everyone within the organisation.
Your reputation is your currency. Having a good reputation in the organisation is your best asset when it comes to being effective at getting things done. People know more about you than you think and know when you are being deceitful, so colleagues and team members are more likely to cooperate when they know your intentions are pure.
Keep it real! Behaviors that are genuine, authentic and straightforward are all associated with political savvy. Leaders who don’t operate this way can often give the impression of being manipulative or self-serving, and that’s just the fastest way to lose the respect and loyalty of your colleagues.
And the concept that runs through every leadership river… emotional intelligence. Research shows that up to 90% of top performers in the work environment have high emotional intelligence. Not surprisingly, people with high emotional intelligence are also more successful and well-rounded leaders. So learn how to read people and situations, empathise and stay tuned to the ever-changing work environment.
We are not born with political savvy; it is something that is learned. Of course, for some, it may come more naturally than for others. But whoever you are, whatever type of leader you are, political savvy is a necessary tool in your arsenal.
Do you consider yourself a politically savvy leader? What would you add to this list? Contribute to the conversation!