Eat or Be Eaten: Know the Political Landscape in your Organization?

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Hi there. Russell Stratton, President and Leadership Champion with Bluegem Learning.

I work with organizations just like yours to help managers improve individual and team performance to get even better results for your business.

The topic I'd like to come back to today is this concept of Leading from the Middle, which I've spoken about briefly before.

Middle managers in an organization are in a unique position...

They are stuck bang slat in the middle of the organization. They have senior management above them. They have their employees and teams below them. To either side they have their peers and co-workers. And then externally, consultants, customers, and there they are stuck in the middle.

So how do we leverage the influence and power that we have? And, how well do we understand the political landscape we're working in?

One of the questions we can ask ourselves is, "am I a shark or am I a lamb?

If we think about two axes on a graph. You've got power or one side - That is how much power, legitimately, that you have, either positional or personal.

And how political your organization is along the bottom.

Some of you will realize you work in organizations that are fairly benign...

In other organizations you work in a very politically charged organization. People are jockeying for position, it's a little more cutthroat.

Depending upon what sort of organization you work in, tells you what sort of approach you might need to take.

If we consider a situation where you perhaps have low power, or perceive you have low power, and you're learning in a fairly nonpolitical environment, then it's a little bit like being a deer in the forest.

You could happily go about your day, trotting around, fairly comfortable, but knowing that at any time anything around you may be a danger to you.

If you're working in an organization where you have a little political power but it is a high political organization, then in some ways you become more like a lamb. You're open to the slaughter. Anybody around you is going to come in and gobble you up.

If we flip that over and think about what if I have a high power. I have a lot of status in the organization, I have a lot of influence, but it's low in terms of its political nature. Then we're more like a bear. We're very powerful. We're very strong. And in some ways we have the responsibility to be more protective than we choose to be aggressive.

And finally. if we're sitting in there our last quadrant then we're probably in an organization where we do feel that we have that personal and positional power, but we're in that very high political environment.

In this situation we're acting more like the shark in the organization as the top of the food chain. We have to be a lot more assertive in our behavior because the danger is all around us and we need to be able to assert ourselves.

Just a little bit of analysis for you to think about yourself and your own organization....

Are you low politics, low power, more like a deer?

Are you low power but high politics and more in danger like a lamb? Are you the shark of the organization, high power in a highly political charged organization?

Or are you more of that protective bear? Lots of power, but low politics to worry about.

If you keep this model in mind when we come to our next vlog -I'll be looking at how we can leverage the different types of power - it's going to hold you in good state.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more, then make sure you tune in next time and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more great videos.

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Russell Stratton

Leadership Champion

RUSSELL STRATTON is an international Leadership Expert, Professionally Certified Trainer and Coach, with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. He is co-author of the book 'I Need to F@#king Talk To You - The Art Of Navigating Difficult Workplace Conversations'.


He is a Master Facilitator for Bluegem Learning's ground breaking "Leadership Success" workshop series - providing a practical toolkit for building engagement and improving individual and team performance. Using live actors in a stop/start forum theatre approach and a combination of dynamic experiential learning techniques, participants come away with a greater ability to actually perform better as employees and leaders in your organization.


He is an accomplished management education, learning & development professional with a proven track record of working with clients in the public, voluntary and private sectors to achieve lasting, measurable step changes in business performance.


Russell works internationally with a wide range of organizational cultures and with all levels from front line customer facing staff to executive management boards. Having worked as both a Personnel Manager and Operational Manager he works at both strategic and tactical levels.

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