Often, we consider the effective player of office politics as someone who is a bit sleazy, someone who manipulates others to achieve their own self-interest. My own perception of the effective office politician is just that, perhaps because I’m pretty terrible at office politics. But maybe I’m wrong about office politicians.
Recent research suggests that leaders who demonstrate strong political skill actually experience better quality relationships with their followers, better 360 degree evaluations of leadership performance, and their followers also experience better performance evaluations. The authors define political skill as the ability to identify and understand the motivations and needs of others to influence others to ensure the attainment of individual, group or organizational goals. This ability ensures that followers will have a leader who understands them, who enables them to achieve their own goals, and who is able, through political skill to attain the resources needed to achieve group goals. Strong leaders have strong political skills.
So for me at least, I guess political skill in and of itself is not sleazy. It is the use towards which it is put. If political skills are put towards attaining the goals of an organization or group it achieves positive things. If these same activities also achieve an individuals goals, then all is well, everyone wins. But when political skills are used to the detriment of other people in the organization, and/or to the detriment of the organization, in the pursuit of individual objectives, then you have a problem. So yet again, it isn’t the politics, it’s the people who cause the problems. Perhaps it is time to spruce up your political skills?
Robyn L. Brouer, Ceasar Douglas, Darren C. Treadway and Gerald R. Ferris. Leader Political Skill, Relationship Quality, and Leadership Effectiveness: A Two-Study Model Test and Constructive Replication. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies published online 25 September 2012 DOI: 10.1177/1548051812460099