Self-awareness is a critical component of true leadership. It is nearly always a precursor to a leadership role in an organization. When someone ends up in a powerful position of authority, we expect a certain level of self-awareness and self-mastery. If that is lacking, it is immediately noticeable.
Joe Scherrer of The Leadership Forge put together this infographic to share the elements of self-awareness and the power of leadership presence.
“Self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.” -Billie Jean King
Here’s the point: Even if you find “playing politics” distasteful, as a leader you’re a part of your organization’s political environment whether you like it or not. That’s because any time a group of smart, ambitious, type-A, competitive, achievement-oriented people gets together, there will be conflict of various kinds.
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato
In your leadership role, you will experience disagreements, deals gone sour, questionable ethics, undermining, jockeying for position, currying of favor, backbiting, and all of the unsavory things that arise when the stakes are high, resources are scarce, power is to be gained or lost, and reputations are on the line.
In short, this is politics.
The reality is that if you if you want to get things done, you need to learn to play the game well.
“If you want to get things done, you need to learn the game of politics.” -Joe Scherrer
Simply stated, your political force field consists of the dynamic interaction of leaders, each of whom seeks to:
use and increase their power in order to
advance and achieve their agendas and to
protect and satisfy their self-interest.
As a result your political force field fluctuates constantly as power is gained or lost, agendas succeed or fail, and self-interest is fulfilled or frustrated.
Let’s look at what it takes for you to maneuver successfully within your political force field.
3 Essential Keys for Successful Navigation
Of course, the ideal policy would be to act altruistically in the service of the organization with the expectation that those around you will do the same. However, since the real world falls short of the ideal, you must adopt other methods to navigate successfully through the human minefield that is the politics of leadership.
Key #1: Maintain Your Integrity.
Know what you believe in and remain grounded in your values. Although you’re playing in the arena of high-level professional politics, it’s neither necessary nor advisable to sacrifice your integrity to do your job.
Key #2: Realize You’re Not Above the Politics.
Since you’re part of the system, the way you handle yourself and deal with situations will cause the political force field around you to flux and change.
Key #3: Be Aware of the Politics.
Part of your problem-solving calculus and decision-making process must include an assessment of your political force field. Leaders who fail to account for the political situation wonder why their solutions don’t fly and their decisions fail.
Completing these five straightforward steps will allow you to map out your political force field, remain aware of your status within it, and take action to navigate it with confidence.
Step 1. Identify the key actors who make up the political situation in which you find yourself. List all the people who control, influence, or otherwise affect your ability to produce results and achieve your goals.
This is a guest post by Joe Scherrer. Joe is a decorated Air Force veteran, an author, a speaker, and a coach. His ebook includes lessons from 82 of history’s greatest leaders. You can follow him on Twitter.
History is replete with stories of great generals—heroes who saved their men, their cities and their countries. It is equally populated with those who failed in their task, sometimes spectacularly.
However, what few realize is that great generals and failed generals are sometimes one and the same person.
Alexander the Great is a case in point. He conquered most of the known world before most people today are out of college and into their first job. In an amazing eleven-year journey of conquest—unparalleled in the history of the world—he rode more than 10,000 miles, fought 70 battles without losing a single one and conquered from Egypt to India.
“By being great, you can change your part of the world for the better.” -Joe Scherrer
But as great as he was, he also had a complex and volatile personality that led to some tragic mistakes.
Read on to discover a few lessons from Alexander’s remarkable leadership career that will help you be a better leader today.
Lesson #1: Seek Out the Best Mentors…Then Learn from Them
Alexander had the benefit of being educated in political, military, and cultural matters by excellent tutors including none other than Aristotle.
He also accompanied his father on several military campaigns and distinguished himself in battle at a young age.
He no doubt drew upon that upbringing when he assumed the throne at only 20 years old after Philip was assassinated.
Alexander wasted no time in using his position as general of all Greece to take the strong army his father had left him and expand Greek hegemony into Persia.
What You Can Learn: Prepare yourself by being open to what others more senior can teach you. They’ve been where you are, and they are where you want to be. Adopting an attitude of continual learning from those you respect will make you a better leader.
Lesson #2: Want to Increase Your Decision-Making Flexibility? What-If Everything
Alexander’s conquests brought him into contact with a wide variety of armies and cultures. To deal with the ever-changing military, political, cultural, and economic landscape, he planned meticulously, analyzed every piece of information and formulated as many alternatives as possible.
From a military standpoint, such efforts reduced his risk, increased his flexibility, and enabled him to operate with speed and decisiveness with his highly trained and exceptionally loyal army.
What you can learn: A flexible and adaptable strategy is a crucial element of your success as a leader. Systematic planning, a comprehensive view, and incorporating a range of options allows you to change your strategy depending on the situation and environment you face. In so doing, you can put together a strategy that will serve you and your organization well as you set about conquering your small part of the world.
“A flexible strategy is a crucial element of your success as a leader.” –Joe Scherrer