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Successful Influencing: Thinking like a Politician

As the dust settles over the UK General Election, some leaders are looking to capitalise on their gains and some are wondering what went wrong. Colin Gautrey, author of Influential Leadership, has some advice for future leaders.

As the dust settles over the UK General Election, senior members of many parties are searching hard for answers. What went wrong? Why were we not able to realise our goals? What shall we do now?

Senior members of other parties will not be resting on their laurels (one hopes). Now the party is over, they also have questions to answer. What next? How do we capitalise on our gains? What do we need to do to honour our manifesto commitments?

Both winners and losers will be reformulating their political strategies and plans. The losers will also be needing to (perhaps) adjust their vision somewhat. The leaders on both sides will be trying to work out how to become more influential in the future.

What has this got to do with you?

Well, assuming that you are a leader, you also need to be influential. Influential leaders, of all kinds, need clear strategies. The thinking required to arrive at a strategy is different from many other ways of thinking. As such, strategic thinking requires practise, and lots of it.

So, here is a little challenge for you.

Putting aside your own political inclinations for a while, imagine that you are a senior figure in one of the losing political parties. What strategy would you advise the party to adopt now?

In order to do this, you need to be able to side-step emotions and bias. Objectively considering the evidence, the dynamics, the agendas and the other strategies in play are all critical factors. What you will immediately notice is how much you don't know. In which case, for the sake of this exercise, make a few intelligent guesses.

As a former strategic planner (in International Financial Services), I have always found developing strategy to be fascinating and fun. The more you do, the more enjoyable it becomes. You need to be creative, curious and open-minded to do it well. Apply these attitudes to the challenge of defining a new political strategy for the party you are thinking about.

Aim to arrive at 3-4 high-level strategy headlines. Naturally, finding a new leader is a given! But what sort of leader? What else would you advise? If you're enjoying this exercise, don't stop at just one party. Have some fun and maybe even send them your suggestions.

Applying yourself seriously to this exercise will help to sharpen up your thinking skills ready to apply it to your own world. In my recent book,  Influential Leadership: A Leader's Guide to Getting Things Done, I advise readers to pause and reflect hard on what is going on around them before they decide on their strategy.

Unlike the exercise above, your own work will require you to fill in more of the gaps in your knowledge. For instance:

  • In your Leadership Arena, what problems and challenges are people facing?
  • How is your arena structured? Identify constituent groups, formal and informal.
  • What agendas are different groups pursuing?
  • How are the groups interacting/influencing each other?
  • What scenarios could emerge?
  • Where does your Leadership Purpose sit within this context?
  • All of this contributes to the real question you need to answer if you are to be an Influential Leader:

What is your political strategy to achieve your leadership purpose?

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