In organizations, leaders exist at every level. However, in my opinion, there are more leaders outside of leadership roles than inside of leadership roles. A bold statement, I know, but I’ve been around the block in business for decades and have seen a lot.
If you are not currently in a supervisory or leadership role but want to be, you can get ahead faster by being politically savvy vs. choosing to play office politics. What does it mean to be politically savvy? First, you must accept the fact that your great work alone will not get you promoted. You must be aware of what’s going on in your company in these three areas:
- Power and Influence. Who has influence over your career and makes the decisions about your future? Who do those people trust and turn to for advice? Once you determine this, create visibility with the influencers, and build a network of champions who advocate for you and your advancement.
- The Rules. What are the rules and especially the unwritten rules? What behavior is rewarded? What behavior is not rewarded? You need to know these things so you can position yourself to be seen as a leader and someone who “gets it.”
- The Culture. Culture is defined as how we do things here. Are people who speak up punished or rewarded? Do women get the same support as men? Is the tone political and hierarchical or innovative and collaborative? Are new ideas rewarded? Once you get your arms around the cultural norms, embody them.
When you understand how these three areas operate in your company, you will be in a better position to be viewed as “one of us” and get ahead.
WHAT CAN I DO? Become politically savvy. Unfortunately, your great work alone will not get you promoted. Trust me on this, as I have experienced it firsthand. You must be aware of power and influence, the rules, and the culture in order to get ahead. I know that may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. In addition, it means you can avoid engaging in nasty office politics to get ahead, which only compromises your integrity.