Political Savvy: Chapter 1
First Chapter of Political Savvy Book:
Important changes that are shaping the nature of work in todays complex organizations demand that we become more sophisticated with respect to issues of leadership, power, and influence.
John P. Kotter, Power and Influence
John Thompson slammed his beer mug on the table. I just dont understand. He was sitting with his boss, Sam Reilly, in a local tavern after work.
Take it easy, John, these things happen. There will be other projects.
How can I take it easy? said John. We had everything going for us, the president said he wanted the Hydro Project, and we had strong management support. It would have given the company a real edge over our competition.
I know, said Sam, you and your staff worked very hard and did an excellent job on the technical analysis. You clearly showed the potential value of the project. But you know as well as I do that Larry Weesly in Marketing was beginning to see that it might have cut into his turf. When he said the project was too risky and then suggested a more conservative approach, the president had to pay attention. They go back a long way, and he has confidence in Larrys views.
But Larrys proposal is built on thin air. Ive looked at his numbers, and theyre based on very shaky assumptions, responded John.
You know that and I know that, said Sam, but in the end its a judgment call, and we know whose judgment the president is going to side with.
John, still unconsoled, retorted, Yes, but its not right, its not fair. Everybody loses. The shareholders lose, the company loses, the customers lose, and even the employees will eventually lose.
Everybody but Larry, sighed Sam.
Kathy Kraften clinked her champagne glass with the others. Congratulations, Kathy, to you and your staff, said her boss, Jake.
I dont know how you did it, but you got the new Clarion Network Program approved and implemented on schedule.
Thank you, Jake, said Kathy, but its really no mystery. It seemed to be the right thing for the organization. My staff worked hard and we used common sense.
I believe you, Kathy, responded Jake, but the odds were against you from the beginning. You didnt have much backing from upper management. Even I was a bit doubtful. You also ran the risk of stepping on a lot of executive toes. Information that some of them used to have exclusive control over is now available to the whole organization.
The other team members chimed in with remarks such as We knew that going in, but we really believed in what we were doing.
I grant you that, said Jake, but what really surprised me was how you got around Ann Vaden. She was dead set against you and used every trick in the book to pull the plug on the project. She has a lot of influence, but she really ended up shooting herself in the foot the way she reacted at the last executive meeting.
Well anyway, said Kathy, the company now has a real chance to beat the competition. Employees can get information quicker, and customers can get faster responses. Hopefully, everybody wins.
Everybody but Ann, smiled Jake.
These are two examples of actual events in the same organization. Almost every manager has had similar experiences sometime in his or her career. John Thompson and Kathy Kraften were both technically expert. Can the separate outcomes be accounted for by luck? Yes, to the extent that organizations are complex. There are many forces, both visible and non-visible, that affect decisions; therefore, luck is always a factor. The real question is whether certain actions taken by John and Kathy affected the odds of their success. The answer from the perspective of this book is a clear and definite yes!
Political Savvy as a Key Dimension of Leadership
Leadership is a hot topic in management circles. So far, attention has focused on the more visible roles leaders play when theyre in the organization limelight. Limelight leadership includes having an inspiring vision of the companys future, managing culture by symbolic actions, generating commitment by practicing Management By Walking Around (MBWA), and building management teams through open communication and participative methods. The list grows daily.
Each behavior mentioned above is important to leadership. Yet, some managers do all the right things in their visible roles and still have little organizational impact. Then there are low profile managers who often violate principles of limelight leadership yet make a tremendous impact on the organization. The press is understandably enamored of highly visible leaders who turn their companies around. Attention to these dramatic exploits, however, can skew opinion as to what really makes the day-in, day-out difference in organizations.
In actuality, the success of high-performing companies results as much from what happens behind-the-scenes as from leaders more visible actions. The difference between John Thompson and Kathy Kraften is this behind-the-scenes dimension of leadership political savvy.
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