Lessons from the Past 74: Managing Politics and Mostly Winning!
The third step (probably the most important) is to understand yourself and the kind of manager you are - in order to train yourself to manage politics. Once you have a clearer understanding of yourself, your aspirations and your managerial style, you can deal with problems with others and also within yourself. Two basic coping patterns can be discerned in the way managers respond to challenges and constraints. One is the bold, assertive, aggressive behaviour of the creative manager—the ‘active’ pattern. The other is the weak, timorous, unassertive behaviour of the manager who is termed ’passive’. These patterns represent polar types. Each manager is neither totally one nor the other, but he would be more of one than the other.
The aim should be to strike that ideal balance of being firm and fair; learned, yet always learning; judging without being judgmental; developing an iron hand in a velvet glove; compassionate without being weak.
If you have prepared yourself with this three-step formula, you will not be defeated by politics or political games. You can master the playing techniques by observing, and by experimenting, and learning when to play the games and when to stay out of it. At the same time, you have to be discerning to be aware of the situations and factors that allow and encourage politics at workplaces.
‘Politics is the science of who gets what, when and why’ - Sidney Hullman 
Generally, the word ‘power’ has negative connotations. It conjures up images of dictators who misused and abused power. Because people see more examples of such misuse of power, they are either afraid or disdainful of it. They suspect, resent or misunderstand it. Most people view power negatively or, at least, cautiously.
Right from birth, all of us get exposed to people who display only the negative side of power. Our parents may have been stern, mercurial, quick-tempered and could have misused their authority. Our teachers may have been autocratic stern and demanding.
However, people who disdain power are at a major disadvantage. They do not understand power, do not see themselves as having it, do not know how to get it and then fear it in others. Their attitude robs them of achievement and of satisfaction in their work and career. 
If you wish to be successful, it is important to understand and use power wisely. You must adopt a positive attitude towards power. Power is extremely desirable because it gives you the authority to get things done and to obtain results. The more power one has, the more one can hope to achieve. 
Power helps to control interaction with others. Not that one uses power to manipulate people. Control here means guiding a transaction toward a desired conclusion. Whether a request is made to a boss, a colleague, or a subordinate, one needs to be in control of the situation to ensure success. Salespersons generally guide a prospect to a purchase decision—force is never resorted to. They convince the prospect and make him want to buy. He is in charge throughout the interview.
Power brings along more options for the individual—more choices and more control over more resources of men, money and equipment. And more power and more options bring greater freedom. With greater power, you can get greater results from others. Most people like to be associated with successful persons because, in the process, they themselves gain more power- and this is ‘associative power’.
With power, you gain greater control over your own life. You are not a mere pawn in the hands of other people or a victim of circumstances. You change the circumstances. You know what you want from your work, organisation, career and others. Knowing this is very important to build a power base. As you use power to remove constraints, you become more powerful and people become more reluctant to put up roadblocks. 
Power earns the respect and admiration of people around. If they know that the power is based on substance and is not just a sham; if they know that you have used ethical means and not manipulative ones, then they respect and admire you. They may not have any love for the person in power; they may be envious or even afraid, but they will have admiration all the same. Then one thinks about powerful yet admired country managers like Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and, more recently, ex-PM Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand; industrialists like Jamshedji Tata, JRD Tata and Henry Ford; and corporate managers like Jack Welch and Prakash Tandon.
Power helps you to build self-esteem, to be happy with your achievements and to have a certain contentment. If you have achieved a powerful position without having climbed on the backs of others with spiked shoes, you will have no regrets... Just a certain satisfaction that you have arrived. 
You can build a power base even by being yourself. You do not have to resort to chicanery. What you say and do should reflect how you really feel, and what you really are. If you are not honest with yourself and others, you will be unmasked sooner or later—and lose power. This has happened to many politicians and corporate executives. One cannot fool all the people all the time. 
And, finally, you must have style. The way we conduct ourselves—our manner of speaking, dressing and acting—must project the image of influence. Power building can be fun. And it can be ethical, even in today’s crooked world. Power equals control and effectiveness. The important lesson is not to shun power as many do – but to aspire for it. For, with power and its proper use, you can be largely apolitical, and, yet, be on top of the game of politics, but without it, you might not even be in the game!
‘I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power.’ - Edmund Burke 
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are ‘Marketing in a Digital/Data World’ with Brian Almeida and ‘Customer Value Starvation Can Kill’ with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)
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