Strategic Leadership and Decision Making
POWER AND POLITICS
The challenges faced by strategic leaders in implementing complex and long-range consequential decisions demand that they be sophisticated with respect to issues of leadership, power and influence. The changes that are shaping the nature of work in today's complex organizations require that we develop the political will, expertise and personal skills to become more flexible, innovative and adaptive. Without political awareness and skill, we face the inevitable prospect of becoming immersed in bureaucratic infighting, parochial politics and destructive power struggles, which greatly retard organizational initiative, innovation, morale and performance (Kotter 1985) Making organizations more innovative, responsive and responsible requires focusing on a number of leadership, power and influence issues. These issues are critical in coping with the strategic environment with all its VUCA characteristics, and strategic leader performance requirements in that environment. The issues influence developing teams at the strategic level, as well as managing organizational processes linked to values and ethics, organizational culture, visioning and the management of change. Such issues include: • Implementing strategic or adaptive change in the face of formidable resistance. • Fostering entrepreneurial and creative behavior despite strong opposition. • Gaining resources and support from bosses whose personal agendas might include organizationally harmful political games. • Avoiding destructive adversarial relationships with others whose help and cooperation are paramount to your success, but who are outside your chain of command and your direct control, and who may suspect your motives. • Building and developing effective teams in an internal environment where the natural tendency is to conflict with each other and engage in "turf battles". • Avoiding becoming a victim or casualty of destructive power struggles. • Avoiding the numerous traps that generate power misuses and ultimately power loss. • Fostering organizational excellence, innovation and creativity, and not getting mired in bureaucratic politics or dysfunctional power conflicts. This chapter will not by itself change your view or way of acquiring power and effectively exercising influence. It does provide an opportunity to think differently about power, politics and influence, and it can refocus your attention on organizational issues and problems. For strategic leaders in most organizations the key to successfully implementing organizational change and improving long term performance rests with the leader's skill in knowing how to make power dynamics work for the organization, instead of against it. POWER IN ORGANIZATIONS
THE CONCEPTS OF POWER AND ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICS John Gardner, writing about leadership and power in organizations, notes, "Of course leaders are preoccupied with power! The significant questions are: What means do they use to gain it? How much do they exercise it?" To what ends do they exercise it? He further states, "Power is the basic energy needed to initiate and sustain action or, to put it another way, the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it." In a similar vein, Richard Nixon wrote, "The great leader needs . . . the capacity to achieve. . . . Power is the opportunity to build, to create, to nudge history in a different direction." Dahl writing about the pervasiveness of the concept of power states, "The concept of power is as ancient and ubiquitous as any that social theory can boast." He defined power "as a relation among social actors in which one actor A, can get another social actor B, to do something that B would not otherwise have done." Hence, power is recognized as "the ability of those who possess power to bring about the outcomes they desire" (Salancik and Pfeffer 1977). [pic]
The concept of...