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Are You A Balanced Leader? Developing Political Savvy | Part Two in our 4 Part Series by Jaime Ehrha

Leaders today need to master a number of skills to be effective. 4 Themes stand out:

  • Cultural Agility

  • Political Savvy

  • Leadership Presence

  • Technical Abilities

Successful Work Team

Political Savvy

People who are strong in Political Savvy have an incredible ability to effectively navigate the organization. They build rapport. They manage relationships in all directions and at all levels of the organization. They are comfortable around higher ranking employees. They establish strong partnerships with their peers. They effectively manage and nurture those at a lower level in the organization. They possess an understanding of how organizations function and act accordingly.

Manage Up

Managing up is not only for those individuals who want to promote or drive their careers forward, but it is the best way to get work done and do the right thing for the customer, the business, and the employees. The secret to success in this area is not allowing nervousness, tension, or discomfort get in your way of doing your best work. Getting to know how your managers, senior managers, and directors think is important, understanding their perspectives and what is important and addressing those components will be helpful.

Maintain Peer Relationships

Overcoming the internal competition from department to department is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. Natural order in organizations and in life creates haves and have nots. Consequently, peers often don’t play nicely in the proverbial organizational sandbox. If you are seen as too competitive, peers will deliberately cut you out of the loop and may even subconsciously or consciously attempt to sabotage your success. When peer relationships are working, however, not only does it bode well for the individuals who are embracing partnership, but it also benefits the entire company. Great peer relationships lead to successful exchanging of ideas and the increased organizational intelligence of the whole. Better decisions are made, teams become more efficient, more productive, and more knowledgeable…everyone’s work elevates. Peer leadership is one of the best ways to determine whether or not an individual is able to obtain more responsibility and lead others.

Manage Down

Nurturing, leading, and caring for others is a great skill that improves productivity, positivity and motivation of others. This style of leadership fosters a reciprocity where everyone grows. Fostering two-way information, giving and receiving feedback, and helping others grow drives better performance, inspires loyalty, and makes work a whole lot more enjoyable!

Understand Organizational Agility

Never underestimate the complexity of an organizational system! A maze of people, process, technology, and infrastructure, organisations are difficult to navigate. Those who figure out how the systems-behind-the-structure works are able to work more nimbly and get things done more efficiently. Understanding the complexity and that every action produces an equal and opposite reaction is a great way to start. No decision in an organization is without good and bad consequences – intended or unintended. Successful leaders understand the system in which they exist, the role they play, and the role that others play. Navigation of the system, the structure, and the people takes practice and a strong backbone.

How to increase your political savvy:

Awareness is key. Knowing your audience, the role they play in the larger system, and their needs is a critical component of Political Savvy.

Get humble: Do a self-check. Do you only care about your own career ambitions? Do you walk all over others to get what you want? Do you help others? Do you see yourself as part of a much larger system, a team or are you only concerned with yourself and your department? Do you speak better about you and your strengths and weaknesses than others can articulate about you?

Get curious: People’s intents don’t always match their impact. Be curious and try to understand where others are coming from, why they make the decisions they do, how they think. Leading with curiosity is a great leadership characteristic that will help you understand the motives of other departments and individuals.

Get partnered-up: Once you understand where others are coming from, you can begin to identify partners in the organisation with whom you can align interests, influence, and be influenced by. Partnerships at all levels make you stronger…and that makes the whole organisation stronger. Make a list of partners you have, partners you’d like to have, and make a game plan to establish strong and genuine relationships in the organisation.

Get confident: If you aren’t confident, try to understand why. What is the root cause for your lack of confidence? When was the last time you were really confident and why? What triggers your lack of confidence – what are your triggers to shake your confidence? Be aware and begin to break down the walls that prevent you from being confident. Outline a fears list (answer the question “What’s the worst that could happen?”) and plan how you will combat them. For example, if one of your fears is that someone will ask a question that surprises you or to which you do not have an answer, practice how you will respond (i.e. “You know, that’s a great question. I don’t have the answer to that, but I will find out and get back to you on it.”)

Get developing: Iron sharpens iron. In an environment where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner, no matter what level you are in the organisation, you have information that can help others. As you grow in your career, helping others is an important part of the growth of the company as well as your own personal growth. Look for ways and opportunities where you can help others.

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