3 P's of Leaders: Power, Politics, Persuasion (Part 1 of 3)

Leaders must persuade others to get behind their ideas and plans. Strategies don’t implement themselves. And even with a great plan, you can always expect opposition and resistance.

Successful leaders must use power, political savvy and persuasion to bring their ideas to fruition. Many executives, however, are uncomfortable with power or office politics, viewing them as the dark side of workplace behavior. They believe job satisfaction, morale and commitment erode when politics dominate the environment.

But research clearly shows that being politically savvy and building a power base pay off. In “Power Is the Great Motivator,” a classic 2003 Harvard Business Review article, leadership consultants David McClelland and David Burnham examined managers’ primary motivations and success in achieving results.

Their studies reveal managers are primarily motivated by one of three drives:

  1. Affiliation: a fundamental desire to be liked
  2. Achievement: the motivation to attain goals and gain personal recognition
  3. Power: the desire to influence others

The most effective managers, measured by results, were motivated by power. But there’s a difference between managers who crave power for personal advancement and those McClelland and Burnham deem “institutional managers” (those who place the organization’s needs over personal goals and being liked).

Institutional managers:

  • Are highly organization-minded
  • Have a strong work ethic
  • Are willing to sacrifice some self-interest for the good of the organization
  • Believe in rewarding individuals who work hard toward organizational goals

Tomorrow….Part Two: The Three Sources of Power


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