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“I don’t like playing politics. I’m not into game playing.”

This quote represents a common complaint I hear from coaching clients. Typically it is from the client that has recently moved from a technical to a leadership role. On the surface, you may be able to understand the frustration. Watch the news and you will see politicians behaving poorly every day.

But what is ‘politics’?

The origins date back to the Greek word ‘polis’ referring to the community, city or state. Aristotle, when he wrote ‘ta Politika’ referred to ‘Affairs of The State’ and regarded the polis as a community or partnership with the aim of promoting stability and allowing citizens the opportunity to live the good life.

Aristotle’s meaning of ‘politics’ is different from the meaning we have developed today.

And you can reframe your meaning of it too.

When I work with clients, I encourage them to consider politics as ‘influencing through relationships’. There are two key components here:

  • Influence: We cannot control others that work with us. We can merely influence them. Influence then is how to get things done in an organisation.
  • Relationships: To influence people, we need to have a relationship with them. Without that relationship, influence is difficult.

Put that way, politics is getting to know the people you are working with and then working with them to achieve business outcomes. It’s no longer a game and becomes more palatable to emerging leaders.