Navigating the Organisational Landscape

We recently conducted a mid programme review of one of our talent programmes for a global Technology company. Whilst the participants were all ranked as high potential, there was a sense for a few that they lacked some awareness about how to navigate company politics. As a result we were asked to focus on this aspect of leadership in the remaining modules.

Politics are a natural phenomena within organisations and can be described as ‘the processes through which rival interests are played out and eventually reconciled amongst various actors’.

Successful leaders understand the implicit and explicit “power plays” that exist within their organisation. They know, if decisions are actually made before, during or after a formal meeting. For example, one client we worked with recently described the culture of ‘corridor conversations’ that existed within their organisation and their debilitating impact on the Executive teams’ reputation to get things done. Decisions that appeared to have been made in the room were constantly being derailed post-meeting, as individuals had worked out they had a leader who could be ‘persuaded’ to change their mind out of the formal meeting setting.

Awareness of the various power plays that exist within specific networks allows leaders to build appropriate influencing strategies, by leveraging their relationships and alliances within the business. A tension often exists when dealing with politics, between holding the line on how it should be versus how things ‘really get done’. And just as a navigator must constantly check between map and compass, so an ambitious leader must read the political landscape to ensure they don’t stray into treacherous ground. Knowing “what you can challenge on and when”, is a key competency for high potential leaders.

Adrian Eagleson