Learning to Love and Ignore Politics

THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 5, 1994 | Go to article overview

Learning to Love and Ignore Politics


All organizations, even the one-person variety, are infuriatingly political. That is, if politics infuriate you.

Frankly, I love politics. And also ignore them. Both frames of mind are important to success in business, or most anything else.

Anyone who loves accomplishing things necessarily must learn to love politics. (Yes, I insist on the word "love.") Moreover, for better or for worse, politics are as important for dictators as for democrats. You can't take people where they aren't willing to go. Saddam Hussein understands this as well as Mohandas Gandhi did.

Politics means inducing and managing creative contention, giving people air time, building winning coalitions. They are the human element (there are no others) of the implementation process. We're all in favor of getting things done. We must, therefore, be in favor of politics. Politics is implementation.

The best leaders, including sole proprietors, who by definition depend on others for survival, spend day and night massaging relationships and egos (that is, working at politics).

Politics is about releasing the potential in followers, inspiring them to remake your vision to fit their passions _ and then to implement it with zest. And politics is simultaneously about squelching potential; successfully implementing anything means we can't all get our own sweet way all the time.

Politics means loving people; getting a kick out of being around folks at the front line (the real army of doers at a Ritz-Carlton hotel or at Merck Pharmaceutical Co.); and enjoying the fray itself.

To engage lustily in politics at Bill Clinton's level, or yours or mine, also means developing a tolerance for bloody noses _ mostly our own. Those with a thirst for action, especially once they've developed a record for getting things done, make enemies or provoke cynics who see all politics as brown-nosing (which, of course, is largely true).

And that leads to my second point: The best way to practice politics is to ignore them.

I've worked in many an office where "office politics" were the primary entertainment, absorbing hours of each day. What a waste to engage in such stuff. Or to pay attention to it.

While there's no more important activity for implementers than politics (relationship-building), there's no more useless activity than worrying about office politics.

For heaven's sake, don't sap your energy and your time fretting about the end-run that Sam is pulling on you. …

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