Moving your agenda and getting things done isn't simply a function of your brilliant ideas--you have to be politically competent. Let's face it. Without some degree of political savvy most of the things you dream about will get stuck. But the problem is most people are snobs when it comes to political competence and make ridiculous statements such as, "I'm not political," or, "Politics is dirty."

The reality is if you're not politically competent you'll never be a successful entrepreneur or organizational leader. If you don't understand that moving agendas is about getting people on your side, mobilizing support, and being focused and proactive, it's almost a guarantee you'll remain a dreamer never be a doer.

Whenever my group visits organizations to train leaders, we encounter initial hesitation when we use the phrase political competence. "Must we use the word political?" is the refrain. Then we sit around and try to couch the word in marshmallow terms to make it more palatable, but the truth is the word is political. You can't lead without political competence and that's a reality. So, if you have objections using the word political, you have to get over it.

After 35 years of writing and research, I've been making this appeal and in my soon-to-be published book (The Agenda Mover, Cornell University Press, Spring 2016), I make the same argument. Execution means understanding the core behavioral skills of developing agenda, anticipating resistance, building coalitions, and sustaining forward momentum. Entrepreneurs and leaders have to manage their campaign.

Becoming an agenda mover with a high degree of political competence requires mastery in four key arenas:

1. Developing an Agenda

Politically competent leaders have a sense of how to prioritize their agenda. They know when to launch their ideas, when to hold their ideas back, and they know how to present their ideas so that the initial impact of a new agenda doesn't turn people off or drive them into active resistance. In trying to move your agenda you must understand that your agenda has to be developed in the context of the intentions of others.

2. Anticipating Resistance

Politically competent leaders know that inertia is contagious. Leaders and entrepreneurs know that they need to be prepared to face the challenges of resistance and hesitation. To move agendas you have to develop the ability to analyze the agendas of others. You have to know how to categorize the agendas of others, and you have to know how to focus your arguments depending of the type of resistance being raised. You have to know how to pitch ideas, justify ideas, and establish credibility.

3. Building Coalitions

Politically competent leaders know that to move an agenda they need more than a team. When pushing an agenda, you need a core coalition of people who are committed to your idea. You need individuals who have bought into your agenda--and who understand that your success and their success are tied together for the common good of both parties. Political competent leaders know how to get the buy-in, enhance the collation, and create a core group with common purpose.

4. Sustain the Campaign

Politically competent leaders don't assume forward momentum. They make it happen. They remain focused, they don't drop the ball, and they sustain their campaign. When pushing your agenda, you have to realize that people get burnt out and that the initial burst of enthusiasm is short lived. Therefore, it is your responsibility to reinvigorate your intention, rekindle the sense of accomplishment, create traction for forward movement, and to make sure that the campaign for new ideas and innovation is sustained. You have to remember that momentum isn't something that manages you, it's something you manage.

As I've learned, political competence doesn't come naturally. It has to be mastered through focused concentration on key skills. The time has come for leaders and entrepreneurs to embrace political competence as an essential tool that enables them execute their agendas and get things done.

Published on: Feb 18, 2016
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