Glow at Work was delighted to host a masterclass on Political Astuteness in leadership with Professor Clive Fletcher of Occupational Psychology at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, where he still holds the title of Emeritus Professor after leaving to work in in private practice. Clive is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and one of the relatively few psychologists to be elected to Fellowship of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and Fellowship of The Royal Society of Medicine. He is formerly chair of the occupational psychology section of the BPS. Clive has published extensively on psychological assessment in work settings. He is author of a standard text on Performance Appraisal and on Psychological Testing.
The aim of the masterclass was to give participants an understanding on how thinking of political astuteness in organisational leadership has developed over recent years. Clive spoke about the need for political astuteness in leadership development-
“ Greater priority needs to be given to developing leaders with the capacity to manage the political dimension. They need an ability to see and communicate the big picture, make connections, be credible with different groups and broker relevant political and strategic relationships.” (Charlesworth et al, 2003)
Are politicians born geniuses or are they just trained to be leaders? This question remains a source of debate, although the dominant school of thought would support the latter. Political Astuteness provides evidence for this view. Moreover, Political Astuteness actually provides leaders in organisations with the skills that they need, as well as helping them to improve those skills in their daily leadership. However, what are the qualities that a fine leader truly needs?
The Framework for Political Astuteness
Political Astuteness highlights five different skills that a good leader should possess:
- Personal Skills. This relates to self-awareness of one’s own motives and behaviours and the ability to exercise self-control. It also pertains to being open to others’ opinions and being proactive, initiating action as opposed to waiting for things to happen.
- Interpersonal Skills. These are often ‘soft’ skills, as they denote the ability of the leader to negotiate, cope with pressure from others and handle conflict in a manner that is likely to achieve the most productive outcome. These skills also signify a capability to influence the thinking and behaviour of others through getting others’ buy-in and making them feel valued.
- Reading People and Situations. This requires leaders to have strong analytical skills and the ability to recognise the wider dynamics, interests, processes, systems and agendas of people and their organisations.
- Building Alignment and Alliances. This denotes the ability to recognise and work with difference and conflicts of interest in order to forge new opportunities as well as collaborative action. It is distinct from consensus-building as it relates more to integrating differences as opposed to minimising them.
- Strategic Direction and Scanning. The two major components that make up this skill are, firstly, having a long-term vision for the organisation and, secondly, foreseeing the longer-term issues which could potentially have an impact on the organisation. In essence, this skill relates to long-term strategic aims and threats. In other words, it is a specific domain of leadership – Leading with Vision.
The Political Astuteness in Leadership Questionnaire is designed to be a development questionnaire enabling an individual to rate their Political Astuteness through self-assessment. It is not only a tool used by individuals and leaders to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in a leadership and management context, but also serves as a guide on how to perform as effective leaders in political situations in organisations. Exercising these skills in real life is essential, as the way to develop and improve leadership skills is through modelling, shadowing, and mentoring. It is completely experience-oriented.
In sum, Political Astuteness requires several qualities as a leader: knowing yourself as well as others, having a clear vision of a long-term plan, paying attention to details to recognise the dynamic around you, and leading the team with purpose and determination. It does not seek to separate different types of leadership, but integrate these differences so as to develop an outstanding, well-rounded leader.
Furthermore, Political Astuteness also indicates four domains of strength a leader should have: Leading to Deliver, Leading through People, Leading with Drive, and Leading with Vision.
Four Domains of Leadership
The idea of the four domains derives from Lumina Leader, a psychometric developed by Lumina Learning, in which we can clearly see the four leadership domains in Political Astuteness:
- Leading to Deliver. A leader must know how to remain calm under pressure. They need to be self-aware, pay close attention to the data and evidence, and follow through on a detailed plan.
- Leading through People. This is an interpersonal skill that denotes building rapport with people at different levels of an organisation, and empowering them with integrity and trust so as to achieve a win-win situation.
- Leading with Drive. This relates to providing members of the organisation with clear direction and leading with energy and determination. It also signifies a desire to lead them to ever higher levels of excellence.
- Leading with Vision. The willingness to gain a wider knowledge of institutions, political processes and social systems, as well as inspiring and leading others through vision and long-term strategic thinking.
Leadership is never an easy concept to explain and the skills and competencies it requires are never simply tasks to achieve. Continually striving to develop and improve qualities in different domains is vital. This is the case not merely at a personal level in terms of the benefits of greater individual self-awareness, but also given that it can lead to dramatically improved productivity and efficiency across the organisation as a whole. In essence, through transforming leaders, one can transform organisations.
Feedback on the masterclass from some attendees:
– “thank you once more for a wonderful event. Topical subject of growing importance with a growing Occupational and Organisational Psychology evidence base, great speaker and facilitator, and great hosting and organisation.” David Beech
– “thanks for arranging an awesome evening this Thursday.” Michael Webster
The next Glow at Work masterclass is with Professor Rob Briner on ‘Developing Evidence Based Skills’, on the 21st November from 6-9pm at the Queens Club, London. To book your place go to http://www.meetup.com/Glow-at-Work-Masterclasses/events/115742012/
Lulu Tang – Intern at Lumina Learning LuluTang@luminalearning.com
Charlesworth, K., Cook, P. & Crozier, G. (2003) Leading change in the Public Sector: Making the difference. London: CMI. Advisory Panel chaired by Sir Michael Bichard.
Hartley, J., and Fletcher, C. (2008). Leading with Political Awareness: Leadership across diverse interests inside and outside the organization. In Leadership Perspectives: Knowledge into Action Eds. K T James & J Collins. London: Palgrave
Hartley, J., Fletcher, C., Wilton, P., Woodman, P., & Ungemach, C. (2007) Leading with Political Awareness: Developing Leaders Skills to Manage the Political Dimension Across All Sectors. Chartered Management Institute: London