Politics rears feelings disdain, resentment and even anger. Understandable, given the quality of the political leaders at the helm in many of the biggest countries around the globe. There is a dearth of talent and sometimes outright moral corruption at pinnacle of professional politics. In the corporate world, we’re wary of the emotional drain caused by office politics. In an effort to stamp out discord, leaders sometimes take a zero-tolerance stance to ‘politicians within the workplace’.
I’m concerned that we single-mindedly focus on the negative side to this equation. Aristotle once said, “Man is by nature a political animal.” He has a very good point.
Seen in a different light, politics is what humans use to successfully organise in large groups. We’re very diverse, with different backgrounds, goals, priorities and emotions. It takes a lot to pull us in the same direction. Apart from a common goal, groups of people require principles for engagement, communication techniques and generally accepted rules and regulations. We also require individuals to honour the intent of principles rather than blindly follow the rules. Fostering these political skills is tough but, at some level, everyone requires them, even if it’s just within a family or household. Successful individuals, including those that are ethical, require political skills in order to navigate the complex people who surround them.
Some engage in negative politics through manipulation, backstabbing collaborators, working in silos from other team members, favouritism, disruptiveness, and even lying. These political techniques can work to an individual’s advantage over the short-term. For example, if I get acclaim for a piece of work conducted by a colleague. After short-term success, these techniques will likely result in downfall over any length of time because the individual destroys his/her credibility within the community. Eventually, a morally sound community will discover and expel a manipulative member because their principles diverge from the organisations. If the community supports manipulation as a principle then it isn’t morally sound. Communities won’t trust other communities that aren’t of a sound moral persuasion, leading to the downfall of the questionable community and all the members within.
However negative actions aren’t the only types of political techniques. Some people engage in positive politics through teamwork, proactive communication, delegation, accountability, honesty, a sense of community, assisting others and listening. These techniques are less likely to result in rapid short-term success, but they result in massive long-term success because trust within the group of people grows exponentially (Integrity and trust are the foundational concepts of savings). Similarly, a group of people that has sound political values will earn trust with other communities, expand their influence, grow their business networks and profit both socially and economically.
So while politics gets our back up, puts our hair on end, it’s important to recognise that politics is necessary for healthy communities. Rather than look consistently negatively on the subject, we have to identify the positive political characteristics. We must cherish and encourage proactive communication, collaboration, delegation, accountability, honesty, a sense of community, assisting others and listening. Too often we deplore the negative politicians without rewarding the positive politicians.