Politics is EQ with agenda

I really like this simple yet profound definition of politics.

Political Intelligence is one of the most important intelligences of a top executive.

What is politics?

Politics is basically the negotiation of the impossible to the possible involving a particular way of thinking, and a serious key steps and behaviours. It is a process of discussion, either overt or covert, which takes place in order to reach some sort of agreement, harmony or way forward, particularly when agendas have become misaligned. It involves dealing with complexities and diversities when few are willing to shift position. If you are a CEO or a head of department, division, it is your job to pull various teams or the whole organisation together in order to achieve an alignment of thinking, processes and systems. This finally tuned balancing act is called politics. It involves a negotiation between a number of different ‘logics’, many of which can on their own make sense, but when brought together there is an incompatibility and conflict of agendas. You have to deal with the interrelationships between people who often have very different interests.

Life and work consist of multiple contexts working together. Contextualism is fundamental in leadership as enables an individual to work their way through multiple interests so that they become aligned.

Aristoteles said that unless you are politically astute, you will get nowhere. In many organisations misalignment is routinely manifested in an abundance of organisational politics, which means politics is inevitable. But how can or should it be managed?

There is a strong correlation between power and politics. Power without politics results in a nasty and divisive culture, when power-driven leader push things through, or use people to achieve their goals, or remove those they dislike or being challenged by. I have personally seen a leader who removed those people who challenged him, criticized his thinking and approach. I understand that power is essential to lead and change an organisation, and you may have to use your strengths and resources to rule in or out of the process. But if it isn’t done well, it is impossible to ensure that the organisation will become more sustainable and positive. So, power without politics undermines the ability to win the necessary engagement to support a way forward. You need collective buy-in. One step further power without service is self-interest driven without considering the greater good of others. It is a ‘me’ culture instead of a ‘we’ culture.

The power player is quick, charismatic and easy to read that’s why it can be attractive first. The political player is slow, humble and complex. The latter’s actions may be considered necessarily ‘deceptive’, which is a potentially negative side to politics. Therefore, it is important to take time to understand your organization and how its politics work. Ask yourself, ‘WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF POLITICS?’ If it is to bring systems and people together to realize the value they need to deliver and enhance competitive advantage, then you are on the right path. This is called constructive politics.

Source: Leadership Intelligence: The 5Qs for Thriving as a Leader by Andrew Kakabadse & Ali Qassim Jawad

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