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  • Writer's pictureTia Teamer

Strategic Leadership: Navigating Organizational Dynamics with Authenticity

Institutional leaders must often balance multiple competing interests. When they rise to positions of increased responsibility and influence, it can be challenging to maintain integrity and alignment within themselves and with the organization's mission while balancing the requirements and expectations of stakeholders. But it need not be impossible.

Leaders can begin by defining their own values and aligning them with organizational goals and interests. Secondly, leaders must help competing stakeholders to define their interests, priorities, and motivations and develop collaborative strategies around achieving the vision of the organization. Leaders in the position of “navigating politics” must approach this challenge not as a conflict, but as an opportunity to “bring others along.” 

Creating an environment for collaboration is a skill few leaders are taught. But failing to do so can negatively impact the success of the team, the organization, and the leader’s reputation. Leaders should remind different stakeholder groups of their shared purpose in meeting the organization's goals and adhere to established protocol.

At Teamer Strategy Group, we coach leaders to reflect on the following concepts and develop a plan of action to build consensus:

  1. Define your values and identify points of alignment with the organization's mission, vision, and values. Clarify what first drew you to the role or organization. Consider your goals for the next quarter or year and your motivations, whether personal, such as a promotion, or operational, such as meeting target deliverables. Note that your goals can be both personal and professional.

  2. Engage with other stakeholders to understand what they value and prioritize in the work. Be transparent about your goals and intentions. In this way, you lead by example and build trust. Find alignment and ways to support cross-functional priorities. Recognize where you have limitations or gaps in your knowledge or skillset and allow others to lead in those areas.

  3. Seek to understand more than to be understood. Where points of disagreement or conflicting interests arise, practice active listening, repeat back what you hear others saying, and ask questions to clarify underlying concerns. Keep the organization's mission at the forefront of the discussion and seek ways to create a “win-win” resolution. Everyone in the organization is on the same side!

  4. Don’t be too attached to one plan or perspective. Be flexible. Even when an agreement is reached, circumstances can develop and change, and the initial approach may need to be adjusted. That is iteration and doesn't mean anything has gone wrong. There are multiple ways of looking at and accomplishing most goals.

  5. Seek outside advice and counsel from mentors, trusted colleagues, or consultants when navigating challenging points of misalignment, or when the stakes of successful collaboration are very high.

As leaders, we are responsible to multiple stakeholders, from our teams to board members to constituents. With intentional self-reflection and engagement of diverse viewpoints, consensus and collaboration can be reached.

As you consider your approach to “navigating politics,” ask the following questions:

  • What kind of teambuilding do you engage in? Team-building activities can help build trust and improve communication among team members. 

  • Are your expectations for each team member clear and in writing? This helps everyone stay on the same page.

  • Do you encourage and facilitate open communication among team members? This can help resolve conflicts before they escalate.

  • When conflicts arise, do you remain neutral and not take sides? Leaders must understand the motives and interests of all parties and do what is needed to collaborate and meet shared goals.

  • When interacting with your team, are you mindful of how people might perceive what you do and say? What might be intended as a joke could be offensive to someone else.

  • Do you accept and allow for differences of experience and perspective? When people learn to get along, diverse workplaces can see all kinds of benefits.

  • How do you hold team members accountable and ensure they meet expectations? Are the same measures consistent and equally applied to all? 

  • Do you know what is in the employee handbook and, follow procedures appropriately?

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