Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nelson Mandela and the Art of Politics

Yesterday I wrote about Nelson Mandela's view on fear and the lesson it provides us today in our busy corporate lives.  Today I want to focus on another Mandela quote that teaches us about a component of living a brave corporate life.
"A good leader can engage in debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger.  You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed."
I spend a whole chapter in my upcoming book Corporate Bravery on politics.  Not the politics that we think of from Fox News and MSNBC but the true essence of politics.  Corporate politics has the ability to inject fear into a corporate culture but that doesn't have to be the case.  Politics are an essential part of getting things done since at its core it is just finding common ground between two differing perspectives or positions.

Whether in business or in government the true art of politics has been lost.  Listening to opposing positions, searching for a compromise, using the power of a position to move people closer to a reasonable solution are all lost arts.  However, they are extremely necessary for a functional organization.

This infographic from the Economist highlights the growing divide of politic discourse in our government and unfortunately we imitate in a corporate context what we see played out on television in our government.

Jack Welch had this to say about the lost art of schmoozing - his way of saying politics:
“You have to schmooze.  You can’t suddenly burst out of your office to build relationships when you hear rumbles of trouble from down below, and it’s certainly too late by the time a crisis flares. No, schmoozing has to be what you do all the time as a leader; it has to be a massive part of your job.
Building — in two big fat words — trust and transparency.  And look, we’re not talking about the standard, ho-ho-ho kind of social schmoozing you do with your customers and your team and your boss. That’s easy. That’s like President Obama schmoozing with Nancy Pelosi, or John Boehner schmoozing with Eric Cantor.
Leaders have to do something harder and more essential; something that can feel awkward at first. You have to schmooze with your known “adversaries” too, say, for instance, your union, or the group of employees who hate your new strategy and want the old one back. The resistors that exist in every organization. The perennial naysayers. Smart and annoying. Them.”
Nelson Mandela understood this better than anyone.  He built trust with his adversaries.  They may not have agreed with his position but through the trust that he had built they were willing to work with him to find a better solution.

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