How the Best Leaders Navigate Office Politics

Business competition

For everyone in the United States, November 3rd was Election Day. It’s was day when we got the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for our country’s leaders. Many care deeply about this particular election (myself included). 

While talking about politics can get most people’s blood boiling, there’s another type of politics that deserve your attention — organizational politics or “office politics.”

Before you shrug off the idea or claim you don’t get involved in “office politics,” let’s define what the term means. Politics are the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups or other forms of power relations between individuals.  

There isn’t an organization in the world that doesn’t make decisions in groups or navigates power balance.  What I have learned in working with leaders in different sizes and types of organizations is that the best leaders not only recognize the politics in their organization, they are active participants in it. 

Great leaders are active participants in organizational politics.

Great leaders do this because they recognize that if they want to make positive change, have influence, and be a part of the solution, they must be active participants and not passive bystanders.

Don’t Ignore It; Learn it.

One of the most popular things I hear from people, “I ignore the politics in my organization; it’s not worth my time.”  I can absolutely understand this comment if their organization has more people jockeying for position than working to advance the company forward. However, this isn’t typical and even in organizations like this, ignoring politics isn’t the answer; learning it is.  After studying leaders who navigate office politics well, here are some best practices you can implement to ensure you aren’t ignoring your organizational politics.

1. Rely on Relationships

One of the biggest mistakes any politician makes is thinking they can do it all by themselves.  Many professionals make the same mistake.  Instead of relying on strong relationships, they “go rogue” and are blindsided when their initiatives are struck down or thrown out. Mark Sheilds said it well, “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals and organizations that you can rally around your cause, the better.”

Start early and never stop building strong relationships you can rely on.  As I wrote in Building the Best“Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.”  Build strong trust-filled relationships at every organizational level by being reliable, consistent, and helping others get what they want.  

If you are curious about the strength of a relationship in your organization, ask yourself this question, “Have I given my time or demonstrated my intentions through actions to this person?”  If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes!” it’s time to make a change with them. 

2. Build a Resume of Accomplishments for Influence

John Maxwell declared, “Leadership is influence.”  That’s not all leadership is, but I know you can’t lead without it.  Influence, by definition, is the power to have an important effect on someone or something.  The best way to gain influence is to build a resume based on actions and accomplishments.  

Too often, people assume that influence comes from how long you have been somewhere. While this might have been true in previous generations, it’s becoming less and less important today.  

Great modern leaders care more about your actions than your age.

The fastest path to influence is accomplishing meaningful things with others. When you play an integral part on a team that takes action, solves problems, and gets results, your influence skyrockets.  

3. Understand the Decision Making Process

Decision making is choosing between two or more courses of action. Some decisions are based on reason and others on intuition. Each organization has a decision-making process woven into the fabric of their culture. I have come to define them in two ways:

Centralized Authority:  These organizations make decisions in a slow, pragmatic, and hierarchical way. Centralized Authority decision making is common in highly regulated industries with significant financial or safety-related ramifications in most decisions.  

Dispersed Authority: These organizations make decisions in a quick, decisive, and shared way.  It’s common for team members to be empowered to “make decisions where the information is.”  This is common in entrepreneurial cultures or in technology companies where innovation rules the day. 

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in most situations, the better model is dispersed authority.  You might not be able to change the decision-making process in your organization, but you should be able to answer these questions:  

Who are the key people?  

What are those people’s priorities? 

What do they value most?  

Once you can answer these questions, you can align your initiatives and influence to get things accomplished.

4. Be Patient

I learned early in my career, “patience is a virtue.”  This week Gary Vaynerchuk said, “patience is the core ingredient of success for most people.”  Most people don’t have patience, and instead expect to build relationships, have influence, and make decisions in days, not years.  

The leaders who navigate office politics the best are the ones who are patient and do the right thing day in and day out.  So do your best to stay patient while being an active participant in your office politics.  

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

What the Best Leaders Refuse to Tolerate

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The culture of tolerance is here. In every aspect of life, we are now asked to accept every person’s choices and decisions. It’s one thing to be liberal with your endurance of others; but, that same tolerance will hinder your abilities as a leader.

Take Amy a division manager, at a large manufacturing company, as an example. She was handpicked to lead a team going through extensive change. One of her team members named Ron had been at the company for over 20 years. He was passed over for the promotion Amy received. Ron took every opportunity to undermine Amy in team meetings, threw her under the bus to upper management, and challenged every decision she made. Instead of making the difficult decision to move Ron to another company’s division or terminate him, Amy tolerated his questionable choices and bad behavior.  

Amy’s success hinged upon a key leadership lesson: 

What you tolerate, you encourage. 

You and I are just like Amy. To reach our full leadership potential, we must be intolerant of people’s actions, choices, and behaviors that clearly are in the wrong. 

In my research studying some of the best leaders on the planet for Building the Best, it was evident these leaders learned early on that they couldn’t make every person happy. They first developed a set of beliefs about what drives performance and helps improve their team members as human beings. Then they refused to accept anything that threatened or contradicted those beliefs.  

Before we get off track about what leaders should tolerate, it’s important to understand exactly what the word means. Toleration is defined as allowing, permitting, or acceptance of an action, idea, object, or person which one dislikes or disagrees with. So the natural question is, “What should you tolerate, and what should you not?”

What to Embrace

There is no doubt that every leader should not only be tolerant but embrace people who are of a different gender, race, religion, or nationality. If every person’s moral code being equal wasn’t enough, having a diverse team both in makeup and in thought is a competitive advantage.   

Research shows leaders who embrace new ideas, and different ways of thinking stay ahead in today’s rapidly changing business world. It’s simply impossible to achieve this without having different kinds of people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. 

What Not to Tolerate

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, there is a right and wrong in many situations.  

Too often leaders tolerate things that aren’t right in fear of backlash or judgment.  

While this seems like a sound strategy on the surface, it contradicts what the best leaders do. Great leaders aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right and for what they believe in. If you are looking for some ideas for where to draw the line with employees, here are some of my favorites:

Team Members Who Are Only In It For The Paycheck

Getting paid for the work a professional does is an essential part of any job. But being connected to the deeper purpose behind the work that is done is essential. The best leaders don’t tolerate employees who are only there to collect the paycheck. Check out this story from an exceptional woman and leader and why she doesn’t tolerate “paycheck collectors.”

Team Members Who Don’t Want to Get Better

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” You’re probably familiar with this John Maxwell quote. It simply means if you don’t have a growth mindset and aren’t growing as a leader, you limit the potential of your team.  

The same should be expected of every member of a team. Each person is responsible for their own growth and development. The moment a person believes they are a finished product, it doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts the team too. One of the best ways to determine is for leaders is to introduce learning opportunities to team members and see how they engage and respond. 

Team Members Who Hurt The Culture

I define culture in the Ultimate Leadership Academy as, “The shared beliefs and values that guide thinking and behavior.” If a team member is sabotaging these shared beliefs and values, and it’s hurting the culture of your team, it’s time to move on.  

Many managers know when someone is hurting their culture but choose to tolerate it because they are a top performer. This is a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset. There are so many talented people in the workforce; don’t fall for the myth that someone can’t be replaced. In fact, a compelling argument can be made that there is addition by subtraction. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes; but only in short-term decision making.   

Closing

Team members who are only in it for the paycheck, don’t want to get better, or who hurt your culture just begins to scratch the surface of what you shouldn’t tolerate.  

Like many things in life, people deserve second chances, so your intolerance should be wrapped up in communication, candor, and care. But if the choices, actions, and behaviors don’t change, it’s time to make a change.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

4 Simple Steps to Be a Better Manager

The vast majority of professionals get promoted into management roles without any prior experience or training on how to effectively lead other people. This kind of approach would be fine if the job was putting mail in mailboxes, but managing other people has massive effects on peoples’ lives.

The obvious effect on people is their ability to get a paycheck and make a living.  The less obvious effects are work satisfaction, engagement, and overall happiness.  Clearly being a better manager is important.

Here are 4 simple steps to be a better manager:

Lead Yourself First

Focus on Relationships

Communicate a Vision

Focus on a Healthy Culture

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About the Author John Eades is one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace. He is the CEO of LearnLoft, host of the Follow My Lead Podcast and author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader.

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14 Influencers Who Will Help You Be a Better Leader

People are spending an enormous amount of time each day checking social media. A recent study showed teens are spending as much as nine hours a day, and the average person is spending roughly two hours.

In today’s fast-paced, content-saturated world, who you choose to follow is massively important to your development as a leader.

Instead of trying to change your behavior by checking social media less, you’ll be better served to take a lesson from Tony Robbins: “Who you spend your time with is who you become.” If you are spending two-plus hours online, people you follow online are influencing you, whether you like it or not.

Here are 14 thought leaders you must be following online in order to be a better leader:

Simon Sinek

Simon became well-known for his “Three Golden Circles” TED Talk and hasn’t slowed down. He is constantly stretching people’s thinking about leadership, organizational structure, and busting myths about Millennials. My biggest takeaway from Simon is:

“Leaders aren’t responsible for the results. They are responsible for the people, who are responsible for the results.”

John Maxwell

John really needs no introduction but if you are unfamiliar, he is the author of 21 Laws of Irrefutable Leadership among others. In many ways he has pioneered the modern world of leadership development and he continues to teach and inspire the next generation of leaders. My favorite Maxwell quote is:

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.

Jocko Willink

The former Navy Seal is by far an away the most intense person on the list. The author of Extreme Ownership and host of the Jocko Podcast will push you to levels of discipline you didn’t think were possible from a book, video, or podcast. My favorite Jocko quote is:

“Discipline Equals Freedom”

Dave Ramsey

Dave made millions in his 20s and proceeded to go broke. He clawed his way back to the top by starting a radio show in Nashville. It’s now called The Dave Ramsey Show and it reaches over 10 million people weekly. He is just a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. Here’s one of my favorites:

“Success is a pile of failures you’re standing on top of, instead of underneath.”

Christy Wright

Christy is an amazing woman who works under the tutelage of Dave Ramsey. She brings an inspiring message and voice to people everywhere. Her brand new book, Business Boutique, is extremely well done. She’s a model for work-life balance, inspiring thousands of people to take control of their family and business life so they can work together instead of against each other.

Jon Gordon

Jon is the author of 17 books and his latest, The Power of Positive Leadership, is outstanding. He really should just be called the “positivity guy.” I know with 100 percent certainty that this world needs more optimism and positivity. Jon helps leaders and organizations find just this every single day. One of my favorite quotes includes:

“Great leaders see greatness in others.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

The love-hate relationship I have with Gary is real. Every time I think I am going to start ignoring him, he delivers insight or content that stretches my thinking and motivates me to hustle harder. He is a bit aggressive at times (OK, all the time) but it’s his style, and I appreciate his authenticity. Notable Vaynerchuk insights include, “If you are good enough, no one is stopping you,” and “Nothing valuable comes quick.” But my favorite, which is so important in leadership:

“The journey is everything.”

Lolly Daskal

Lolly has dedicated her life’s work to leadership development and executive coaching. Her brand new book, The Leadership Gap goes a level deeper than most writers are willing to go. As she says:

“We are here to be our most valuable.”

Tim Ferriss

Tim is called the “Opera of Audio,” and his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has reached over 80 million people. He burst on the scene with his book The 4-Hour Work Week and has gone on to publish three more. Ferriss covers a wide range of topics, so no matter what you’re passionate about, he has covered it and covered it well. His new TV show, Fear{less} is a must watch for any professional leader.

Carson Tate

Carson might be the least known on the list, but she is fantastic. She is an expert when it comes to productivity at work and at home. She is a brilliant teacher and inspiration to professionals everywhere. She’s best known for her personalized approach to productivity called “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” Her content is exceptional on LinkedIn and is paramount for any leader who wants to create better and more balanced lives for their teams without taking a hit on performance.

Tony Robbins

Tony is the man who really modernized the thought leader. His books and programs have motivated, inspired, and changed millions of lives. He has written four best-selling books and, at age 57, feels like he is just getting started. While some people don’t love his approach or style, it’s hard to argue with the results and passionate fan base he attracts around the globe. One of my favorite Tony quotes:

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Tim and Brian Kight

The father son duo host of the Focus 3 Podcast constantly deliver a system of leadership principles that are timeless. Whether it be E + R = O or Eliminate BCD (blame complain defend) it’s applicable for a 5 year old to the CEO of a major corporation. You can listen to my interview with Brian here. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Tim:

“Leaders are people going on a journey and taking other people with them”

Patrick Bet-David

One of the most important parts of leadership is achieving positive results. Bet-David brings an incredible amount of energy and optimism to the world of entrepreneurship and capitalism. Just this week on the Follow My Lead Podcast he said:

“The sooner you can get clear on what you want, you will have an edge on everyone else”

Can’t believe I almost forgot…

Patrick Lencioni

Patrick is the author of one of my favorite leadership books “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.” He has an unbelievable handle on servant leadership and it’s importance in the workplace for organizational health. One of my favorite leadership quotes for young leaders comes from Lencioni:

“Don’t be scared by a job you haven’t yet had”

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My LeadPodcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You can find him on instagram @johngeades.