The Difference between a Manager and a Leader
A simple solution for transforming a ‘dire workplace’

A misguided idea of leadership: could this be the ultimate leadership mistake?

“Imagine for a minute, a workplace where everyone is aligned with business objectives; where everyone understands the value they contribute; an environment where people actively seek to build mutually beneficial relationships across the organization.”  This invocative opening statement to a newsletter caught my attention because that is precisely the type of workplace that I aspire to help create - and would like to see as universal.  But the next sentence struck me like a blow to the solar plexus.

“In other words, a workplace of politically savvy individuals.” This caught me by surprise despite the headline proclaiming, “Political savvy is a leadership skill.” My shock, however, stemmed from the equating of “political savvy individuals” with an aligned workplace. I have worked with some extremely politically savvy individuals and the workplace was anything but aligned. I started to ponder why .  

As I did, I realised that organisational alignment flows from purpose not policy. Principle and purpose are the two essential elements that underpin the creation of an organisation in the first place. Principle and purpose thus also form – or should form – the basis of strategy.

Policy, on the other hand, is effectively the derivative of strategy. This makes it tactical or operational rather than strategic. Consequently I would argue that alignment flows from the common understanding of strategy. This is borne out by the common linking of alignment with the words strategic or organisational and the inter-changeability of the terms strategic alignment and organisational alignment.

With around 70% of all change initiatives reported to fail, this is a major concern. Change is essential to implement strategy and execution is the hardest part of strategy. Since strategic alignment is vital for the successful execution of strategy, these statistics indicate that strategic alignment is lacking. It seems self-evident that more than “political savvy” is required.

In fact the over-emphasis of policy at the expense of principle and purpose may be the biggest single cause of our current dearth of leadership. Thus to call for greater political savvy and to identify it as an essential quality of leadership is misguided and a massive disservice to leadership and all organisations that are crying out for greater leadership. 

Common purpose 27561683_sIf you want to fulfil your leadership potential and to be more effective as a leader, you don’t need to be more politically savvy – you need to be more “strategically savvy.” You need to be more inclusive. Only then will you build the trust and common purpose that delivers strategic alignment, and ensures sustainability and success, through strategically savvy people.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”


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