Political savvy is a critical competency for astute leaders.

by Ruth McGowan

Political savvy is a critical competency for astute leaders.

by Ruth McGowan

by Ruth McGowan

To be an effective CEO, community leader or project manager, it is not enough to be smart, strategic or empathetic. Modern leaders must also be politically astute, with a truckload of ‘political nous’.

Calling for Political Astute leaders

In the past year, I have noticed a change in the language of the position descriptions for local-government CEO vacancies. Increasingly, the Key Selection Criteria for these plum roles are seeking leaders who can demonstrate they are ‘politically astute’. This is a ‘must have’ skill for leaders of large, public sector organisations who also have to deal with elected representatives.

In a local council, aspiring managers need to demonstrate that they have:

  • The ‘project skills’ to deliver on strategic council plans.
  • The ‘people skills’ to engage with a wide range of diverse stakeholders and successfully collaborate on project delivery
  • The empathy to inspire hundreds of skilled staff to commit to a service-orientated culture.

The modern CEO also needs to add:

  • the ‘political skills’ that ensure productive relationships with elected representatives and the ability to create a positive people and culture environment for managing workplace politics.

It can be hard to define ‘politically savvy’ but you certainly can tell when someone doesn’t have it!

What is ‘political savvy’?

I suggest people seek to answer this question by thinking of a leader(s) they admire and reflecting on the importance of political skills to this leader’s success.

Conversely; think of those leaders who despite great promise, ultimately failed in the role. It was most likely because they didn’t ‘get the politics’ and lacked ‘political nous’.

It is tough to deliver transformative change, operational excellence, stakeholder engagement, a thriving culture … and all the other outcomes expected of a senior manager or community leader without a high level of political intelligence.

That’s why all successful leaders have the smarts, the strategy and the savvy.

How politically savvy you are is measured by your Political Quotient, that is, your level of political intelligence.

If you were to unpack the components of a Political Astute leader into its parts, it looks like this:

IQ (Intelligence Quotient) + EQ (Emotional Quotient) + PQ (Political Quotient) = Astute

Lift your PQ

If you wish to ‘get good stuff done’  – whether in your workplace or community – you need to take an interest in the politics going on around you. Because if you don’t; politics will take an interest in you and this may not be to your benefit.

That’s why I don’t call politics a ‘game’ because this is deadly serious. Your level of political intelligence – and therefore how politically astute you are – can make or break your career.

As a consultant working in the local government sector and someone who is fascinated by the ‘raw politics’ of public office, I am keen to learn more about what it takes to help people master the politics. This year, I travelled to London to undertake accredited training with UK-based, Academy for Political Intelligence who are world leaders in delivering training in organisational politics.

The Academy has developed a range of tools and processes to help people in organisations to manage the political landscape more effectively. This includes a diagnostic tool which allows people to identify the type of ‘political animal’ they are and workshops on how to build the skills to become more politically intelligent to manage the politics in their organisation.

I am now an accredited trainer with the Academy to deliver this training throughout the Asia-Pacific region for corporations keen to understand how to boost their skills in organisational politics and become more politically savvy. This is particularly important for new and aspiring managers and team leaders. By learning the skills of politically savvy at the start of their leadership journey, people can fast track the years that it may take to learn about politics the hard way.

If you want to know more about the Political Savvy training program for new managers and aspiring leaders, please get in touch, and I will forward you information about the workshop program that can be delivered in your workplace.

Ruth McGowan OAM is an accredited trainer in Political Intelligence and runs training on how to Boost your Political Savvy for new and aspiring leaders. 

Top