Are You Politically Savvy Enough to Lead in Business?

Becoming a leader in business isn’t just about WHAT you know or even WHO you know but it also has to do with HOW you are known. In other words, Just how politically savvy are you in the office?

As we rise through the ranks of an organization, our ability to read body language, understand other’s agendas and know when and how to offer advice becomes more important. It is all about being politically savvy in the work environment.

In the Forbes article by Bonnie Marcus, How Political Savvy Helps Women Stay on Top, Bonnie explains the need for being aware the importance of political correctness.

The reality is that as you climb the corporate ladder, technical skills matter less than relational skills. The reality is that the competition is fierce and if you don’t pay attention to the politics, you will be vulnerable to potential power plays that can sabotage your career. Your consistent and sophisticated approach to managing workplace politics is critical in order to survive and thrive in a leadership role.

Ms. Marcus breaks it down into four important needs that women in leadership must keep in mind to reach the top and stay there. The need to:

  • Manage your reputation and establish your authority as a leader.
  • Stay tuned in to the ever-changing dynamics of the work environment.
  • Have trusted relationships as resources and sources of information.
  • Effectively communicate your vision and persuade and influence others to act.

The Center for Creative Learning offers a white paper on the subject of Women and Political Savvy How to Build and Embrace a Fundamental Leadership Skill. Initial findings suggest that women find office politics evil:

Researchers have documented gender-based differences in attitudes about office politics as well. Some have found that women perceive organizations as more political than men do. Research by Ruderman and Ohlott (2002) shows many women managers view politics as “evil” and find engaging in political behavior to be difficult and painful. Other studies have found that men tend to be more involved in political processes and regard them as a natural and normal part of organizational life.

The white paper also offers four key elements to help women become more politically savvy:

1. Their network. Identify people in your organization who are particularly effective at influencing and getting things done. Notice how they behave and carry themselves and the individuals who are part of their network. Observation and modeling can help you become more effective.

2.  Scan your environment. Think about how others must be feeling in a situation, what is happening, and what circumstances are bringing you together. Pay attention to your own feelings and reactions as well.

3.  Think before you act. Take a deep breath and step back. Take the time to think through what will happen if you behave a certain way. Explore alternatives and the responses that each is likely to evoke.

4. Inspire trust. Align your actions and gestures and words. Pay special attention to your nonverbal behaviors. If you fail to make eye contact or stare out the window when you are supposed to be listening, you may be sending signals that you don’t intend.

I would suggest that you read the entire white paper as it offers great advice and resources to help you understand the importance of being political savvy in the workplace and how to work towards achieving it. Center for Creative Learning

Curious to know how politically savvy you are right now? Take this quiz – the responses may surprise you. Let me just start by saying that, according to the website, most people score 4 out of 9 correct, which indicates the following:

This is the mode or most frequent score. It often represents the traditional view of political savvy. It is generally less black and white perspective than that of the 1-3 level of Matches. Attaining this level puts one with most other intelligent individuals who work within the traditional views of hierarchical organizations but who recognize that the human dimension plays a significant role.

Take the test and see how you do: How Politically Savvy Are You?

Although women may resist the urge to act in a politically savvy way because it feels less authentic, the facts are clear that if we want to rise to the top and stay there; being politically savvy is a must. It is a process and this is just one of the steps women in leadership need to understand.

JJ DiGeronio's Headshot

JJ DiGeronimo, the President of Tech Savvy Women, advanced from entry-level positions into leadership positions within technology companies. Through her keynotes and executive sessions, JJ shares effective leadership and inclusion strategies to retain, develop and advance professional women. JJ includes these experiences in her book new book “Accelerate Your Impact” which complements her 2011 book, “The Working Woman’s GPS.”  JJ has been quoted in numerous publications including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Fox Business.  She now shares her women in business expertise with Amazon, Ingram Micro, RIT, IBM, Clemson University, Symantec, VMware, Discover, KeyBank, and Cisco along with many other organizations.