My husband Mike was the Mayor of Southern Pines at the early age of 32. He served for two terms, and he has been politically active since that time. He is now somewhat of a sage. People from all political parties and all sides of issues walk in and out of his office throughout the week to get his advice on a variety of topics. Why him? Because he knows where the land mines are.
In leadership, developing political savvy is a must. Otherwise, you run the risk of being governed by your followers. While I am a huge fan of self directed leadership, at the end of the day, someone high at the top has to have the credibility, trust and integrity to make tough decisions, and this comes from being able to navigate complex political situations with finesse.
It is not uncommon for leaders to shy away from corporate or community politics, and in my opinion, this is just being naive or just plain stupid. Politically savvy leaders know to operate well behind the scenes, who the key players are and how to engage those key players with integrity so that they get on board. A politically savvy leader also knows where the land mines are, and they walk gingerly around them. A politically savvy leader never plays favorites, but he or she knows exactly what to say and when to say it and understands that working the political system is like walking through a maze…you eventually get to the result, but it is confusing and strategic at each and every turn.
If you are someone who is politically savvy, congratulations. If not, I highly recommend the book Political Savvy by Joel DeLuca. The book offers a political mapping technique that is simple but so effective. Just remember…knowing where the land mines are and knowing how to navigate the political system in your organization are half the battle!.