Political Competence

In Get Them on Your Side, Samuel B. Bacharach writes about getting people on your side to get results and make things happen.

Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:

  • Get people on your side. People are for you or against you. Having them on your side reduces friction, makes your life easier, and it’s how things get done.
  • Know that political competence works both ways. Political competence is why a bad idea or bad person can win. It’s also why a good idea or a good person can win.
  • Don’t let a lack of political competence block your potential. Having a great idea, great plan, or good intentions isn’t enough. Build support, get momentum, get results.

Process for Political Competence
Here’s a high-level view of Bacharach’s political competence process:

A Question of Political Competence
Political competence may be the key factor for successful leaders.  Bacharach writes:

"People who push ideas that never get off the ground may become organizational Casualties. Their idea may get crushed by opposition before it has a chance to be implemented. On the other hand, successful leaders not only push an idea, but they also understand the opposition, get people on their side, and get results. Maybe — just maybe — the difference between casualties and successful leaders is not a question of which one has a better idea, but a question of their political competence."

There’s No Shortage of Good Ideas
The challenge isn’t coming up with more ideas, but instead, it’s about turning ideas into action.  Bacharach writes the following:

"There is no shortage of good ideas. The problem is how to turn good ideas into action. It is easy for someone to tell you that you need to change how you deal with your customer, how you measure your outputs, how you approach organizational culture, how you recruit and compensate employees, and how you focus on your core technology. But it is difficult to know how to put these ideas in place — how to get results. Many people know what needs to be done, but few are able to leverage the energy and support of others in order to do it."

You Need Political Competence
Identifying allies and resistors is a way to find the path forward, and deal with resistance and issues.  Bacharach writes the following:

"Making things happen depends on your broad political vision. It isn’t simply a matter of getting a good idea, laying out a plan, telling others what to do, and overseeing the implementation. In order to get results, you have to identify allies and resistors, you have to get buy-in, you have to build coalitions, and you have to lead politically. A good idea, a great idea, a mediocre idea — no matter what kind of idea you have, before you lay off those six people in Detroit, or rearrange the furniture in the upstairs conference room, or install a new server, you have to do your political homework. You need political competence."

What Is Political Competence
Mapping the political terrain is the heart of political competence.  Bacharach writes:

"Political competence is the ability to understand what you can and cannot control, when to take action, anticipate who is going to resist your agenda, and determine whom you need on your side to push your agenda forward. Political competence is about knowing how to map the political terrain, get others on your side, lead coalitions. More often than not, political competence is not understood as a critical core competence that is needed by all leaders in organizations."

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3 Comments on "Political Competence"

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  1. edjez says:

    Maybe a spin on getting them on your side is finding a common side, and getting both of you there? Applicable only in some cases of course…

  2. J.D. Meier says:

    You nailed it actually!

    It’s about Mutual Purpose – http://thebookshare.blogspot.com/2007/12/mutual-purpose.html