The concepts presented in my article, Power & Politics in the Corporation, and their amplification here in this blog are primarily my own work, and principally based on my own observations. Some of the terminology, such as street fighters or manueverers I've adapted from the work of others, trying to stay a true as possible to their original ideas, but also wanting to conform those descriptions tothe entire landscape of my own concept.
In broad strokes, politics in the corporation involves two primary dimensions -- will and skill. Will comes down to the question of where the practitioner draws the line between acceptable and offensive. Some eschew politics completely, while others seem to feel (either through deliberate thought, or by default), that anything goes. In some of my writing, I explore the extension of that boundary to include illegal acts, as opposed to just immoral ones -- things like, blackmail, murder and theft. Other than fear of punishment, what causes the amoral from stopping at scapegoating? Why not move on to other potentially productive actions like larceny?
The other dimension, skill, is determined by natural talent, education, and practice. I contend that those who are the most emotionally intelligent (in other words, the most aware of how others perceive and feel about what is going on around them) have the greatest natural talent. Education can be academic, such as I've attempted to provide with my article and blog series, but in a practical sense the aid of a mentor is probably the best source of political teaching. And just like any human endeavor, practicing the tactics makes one better at implementing them, although negative experiences probably teach more than positive ones do.
Combine both high will and skill, and you've got the makings of a successful politician. But not all good politicians succeed, and not all poor politicians fail. This is because real performance also counts in the corporate world -- a fact I've largely ignored in the text of the article. Ultimately it takes all three -- political skill, political will, and performance -- to keep ascending the ladder.
Is there a luck factor as well? I've always been opposed to ascribing much of success and failure to luck. The belief that winners create their own luck certainly has appeal. But I can't deny there is a certain randomness to those who ultimately ascend to the top, compared with those who don't. Some people become CEO's with obvious flaws, while others, with seemingly impenetrable armor, are terminated (some with extreme prejudice). So yes, I admit there is a little luck involved in the end. Over the mass numbers, it probably evens out, but in individual cases, strange things can happen.
I would love to hear feedback from other thinkers on the subject of politics, political tactics, and the way these things function in large organizations. If you're too shy to post comments here, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org