Politics is a highly charged word usually associated with negative, deceptive and self-serving actions. The idea of being politically savvy may make you recoil and conjure up images of slimy, unethical behavior.
However, political savvy is an extremely powerful skill in being an authentic and impactful leader.
Political savvy is the skill of understanding the complexity of relations between people, the distribution of power and how interrelationships affect the ability to get things done. This understanding and ability to leverage it relates directly to your capacity to influence others and get things done that are important to making a positive impact.
Think of it this way; to be successful in any environment, you need to understand how it works. If I drop you in the middle of the desert your #1 goal would be to scan your environment, understand how things work and start adapting so you can thrive.
Women tend to wrestle with this skill for a few reasons. Men tend to see politics as a normal part of working together, where women judge it more negatively. Women are also somewhat “late to the leadership party” in regards to experience, mentors and opportunity. We’ve not been schooled in how to finesse the political landscape of our work environment.
So how do you build your political savvy muscle? The Center for Creative Leadership has identified 4 steps to help you beef up:
2. Scan your environment
3. Think before you act
4. Inspire trust
Network: Issues involving power and influence often take place in informal interactions. Spend time developing positive relationships with people at all levels in your organization.
Scan your environment: This is actually the skill of social awareness and the ability to be attentive to emotional cues and listen well. And women have a greater capacity to scan the environment due to more gray area in that part of the brain!
Think before you act: Again, this is an emotional intelligence skill; the ability to have self-control and manage impulsive feelings and distressing emotions well. And know what to share and what to keep to yourself.
Inspire trust: Be genuine, sincere and honest.
By practicing these skills, you position yourself to have greater influence and to make a greater impact in your organization and the world at large.