Want to Enjoy Being a Leader? Get Political

I think we're all pretty much sick of politics (I know I am).  But experts are now saying that political skills are important to leadership.

Leaders skilled at influencing others may be happier at work, according to a Kansas State University researcher, as reported at newswise.com.

Andrew Wefald, associate professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies, says political skill — the ability to build connections, foster trust and influence other people — is a fundamental quality of a transformational leader and being good at it can increase job satisfaction and engagement.

"Most people think of political skills as manipulative and negative but, basically, it is building connections with other people," Wefald says. "In a positive sense, politically skilled people foster supportive and trusting environments to benefit organizations and are going to be more transformational leaders, which will lead to higher job satisfaction."

Building connections with other people makes everyone happy, he explains. (Maybe we should tell that to certain Presidential candidates?)

The researchers tested three types of interpersonal skills: emotional control, defined as control of one's own emotions; emotional sensitivity, defined as understanding emotions of others; and political skills, defined as understanding people and being able to influence them in ways that contribute to personal, group or organizational success.

Out of the three, political skill was the only skill to have an independent positive relationship with transformational leaders and their job satisfaction.

"Think of the best boss you ever had — most likely they were very politically skilled," Wefald says. "Leading without political skills is possible but it is going to be like wearing a weighted vest."

There are four components of political skills: networking ability, apparent sincerity, social astuteness and interpersonal influence.

"These are all things a good leader is going to be able to do," Wefald notes. "Someone with those skills is going to be in a better position to help the organization because they will be better able to get things done than someone who doesn't have those skills."

The researchers dug deeper and looked at the relationship of high political skills to participants' reported work engagement and job satisfaction. Those who were highly engaged in their work had high transformational leadership skills and high political skills.

"Work engagement is the level of a person's physical, mental and emotional energy with their job and if they are fulfilled from that work," Wefald states. "Being engaged at work leads to several positives for the individual, such as more energy and stamina, and the organization, such as less employee turn over."

He adds that it's a developable skill but there are many personality traits and variables that may prevent a person from developing a high level of the skill from nothing. "Some people's window might be wider, some people's might be narrower — it's just going to depend on the person they are and their personality," he concludes.





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