The case for an intensive and comprehensive Power Leadership Training
by Radu Magdin
For very few, understanding power comes naturally. For the rest of us, mastering the political context and dynamics requires a lot of work. Through commitment and dedication, we can usually compensate the lack of an innate ability to make sense of a messy world. However, not many are willing to take this road and the explanation hinges on the political myths that surround our daily existence. Against all the political TV series and novels that put the gut feeling in politics/power on a pedestal, I make the case for an intensive and comprehensive Power Leadership Training. The interesting thing is that such preparation is not only for current or aspiring political leaders, but also for those from the business and the non-profit sectors. All in all, if your work is directly influenced by political / power decisions or by organizational rivalries or power plays, then getting a better sense of what power leadership means will become your edge.
Let me give you the example of a country President. Let’s say you just won elections, and there is a lot of hope around what you could accomplish in the next four or five years. You have to do some decent expectations management or you will pretty much exhaust your popularity in a year or two. Look how easily popularity can go down, with wrong strategic moves. Many felt inspired by E. Macron’s big think and inspirational political approach, but the lack of details (or of a clear plan) for France showed quickly its limits; the devil is in the details and the overall narrative has to be aligned with specific public policy decisions. By ignoring the nitty-gritty of the act of governing, the French President was overwhelmed by the public’s expectations and will now have to fight hard for political survival. All this does not mean that you cannot mount a comeback (Macron can try and may succeed), but why struggle to be back on top, when you can manage your energy and capital in a smarter manner? The situation is no different for an incoming CEO: there are expectations from the owners of the company, the board, the people within and the outside world; a well-trained power operative will have to define the playing field to her/ his advantage and will be able to do so.
What a leader needs to do to survive and thrive in this very dynamic world we are living in is to combine power, strategy and communications rules and know what, when and how to plan, act and communicate. Obviously, specific situations requires tailored plans and personalised answers, but there is a more general, theoretically- and empirically-informed framework, that could come in handy. Having a good map is always a could starting point and, most of time, is decisive for the final result.
What most of the existing trainings on leadership do is to go niche and focus on a specific issue: public speaking, media training, strategic planning etc. However, what I’ve noticed by delivering a lot of trainings in the past few years and working with Prime Ministers, top CEOs and civil society leaders, is that such trainings, while useful in principle, fail to prepare comprehensively a leader for the complex challenges of present day professional life. Seeking to deconstruct and compartmentalise the challenges for those operating at the top misses the complexity brought about by the unusual combination of factors and contexts. It could sound trivial, but, beyond the rigour of hard sciences, the total is always bigger than the sum of parts.
With these ideas in mind, I have tried to put forward the right and useful framework for successful power leaders. It covers 4 big building blocks that you have to understand and, after hard work, master. I call these four aspects operations, or ops, because this gives a sense of both strategic planning and need for disciplined execution. I will briefly discuss each of them.
Operation Define. Define yourself and your narrative. Make sure that you align your story with your objectives and you can relate your plans with the concerns of the community you are part of. Remember to factor in the temporal elements: there are times to act and times to plan. Moreover, one of the key lessons surrounding the power world is that, if you do not define yourself, the others will do it and this will not necessarily work to your advantage.
Operation Anchor. Strategically position yourself in the system and its dynamics. If the bigger plan is clear to you, if the narrative is powerful and easily communicable, then the execution should follow. This is similar to deciding at what level do you want to play and for which team. Contrary to what is often said, there is a lot of room for creativity at the top: do not accept fixed or binary choices and remember that you can always turn the tables if a specific context/situation requires such a bold move.
Operation Power Play. Map and influence your environment, the ecosystem, from a power perspective. This requires understanding very well the power environment, making sense of who the key players are, what are their interests and how this networks of objective and subjective factors could be approached so that it serves one’s goals. Mapping the system and engaging with its moving parts are the two essential elements of operation power play.
Operation Stratcom. Communicate strategically, prepare both charm offensives and a good defence from competing information warfare. Do not underestimate the implementation and the storytelling parts. In the end, the master narrative is an accumulation of stories put together and delivered with vision and purpose. The quest for relevance and influence is part of a day-to-day strategic communication battle.
These 4 building blocks use power, strategy and communications tools to deliver a comprehensive training, which can be done for a leader and her team. The goal? Helping you to gain know-how, knowledge and to create a solid plan for credibility and success. Make power work to you advantage!
PS In power / political terms, we speak often of 3S (substance, style and spin) and 4 basic things needed to succeed (for good governance for example): policy, strategy, communications and delivery. Our intensive training takes this into consideration and much more: we help you understand the “big picture” + we offer laser sharp specific / concrete action advice). We provide hands on personalized advice (general advice rarely works when global meets local) on how to achieve your objective(s) as a power leader in any organisation or environment/ community. It all starts — and ends — with you and your professional plans (= our brief), guiding you to sustainable success. In 2–3 intensive days we can train both you and any members of your trusted team.
Check out my VIDEO making the case for an intensive and comprehensive Power Leadership Training: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DCMP7BCTk8&feature=youtu.be .
This article is the first of a wider Empowerment / Power Training Medium series.