In last week’s blog post, we began to explore the groundbreaking book The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle, written by Dr. Kathleen Reardon. We began to dissect what office politics is, why it’s important and how you can become a political player, so that you may too gain access to your company’s inner circle.
This week, we will be discussing in detail what makes a person a true political player. As was mentioned last week, one is not necessarily born politically savvy; rather, there are certain skills one can learn and behaviours one can adopt that will enhance your political abilities. These characteristics that are shared amongst the politically savvy, and in turn those who have mastered the secret handshake, will be examined below.
1 – The Need to Lead
Any person who has accessed the secret handshake is an unmistakable leader. Leadership, however, comes in many forms, and political players carefully assess which form works for every individual situation in which they find themselves (Reardon 37). How does one assess which style of leadership is most appropriate? Political players know the first step is to listen thoroughly, and secondly, they assess the styles of those around them, and subsequently adjust their own styles to match (Reardon 38). According to Dr. Reardon’s Leadership Style Inventory, there are four types of leadership: Commanding (direct people to action to get things done), Logical (assess situations carefully before making a move), Inspirational (are attracted to radical change, and motivate others by empowering them) and Supportive (help people follow the path that others have agreed is the best) (Reardon 41). Which style are you?
2 – Extreme Focus
True political players never lose sight of their goals, even when they seem impossible, or in the face of obstacles (Reardon 48). Reardon quotes one of her interviewees who says: “When you really want something, you don’t wait to be invited” (Reardon 50). Focus, and a clear set of goals, is a fundamental aspect of becoming a political player.
3 – Think Like a Chess Player
What Reardon means by this is you must be able to think ahead, to engage in advance thinking. She states that “Politically adept people know how to learn the ‘lay of the land’ so they can set about creating the conditions that will make their endeavors most likely to succeed” (Reardon 50).
4 – Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
This is fairly straightforward – if you are going to become a true political player, you must know what you do well, and what you don’t.
5 – Impeccable Timing
Timing, above all else, is one of the most difficult skills to teach (Reardon 57), but it is certainly possible. Good timing means paying attention to your surroundings, and how you express yourself within them (Reardon 58).
When you break these items down, you can see that they are not rocket science; these are all valuable skills that can be learned by anyone with the desire to do so. Next week, we will look at how to form relationships the politically savvy way. Stay tuned!
Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of The Business Inner Circle. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.