when i started this blog (exactly!) six months ago, one of the things i knew i wanted to do was to share some of the lessons i have learned about design, business and life from "business buddhas" in my life. the other day i looked at the brainstorm notes i compiled before the launch and in huge letters in the corner of the first page i wrote "if buddha went to bschool aka lessons from kabi." and so, this series was born! but i've never actually shared anything from kabi himself. so, here goes!
kabi is the ultimate business buddha for me. he was a professor of mine during business school and taught a class on power and politics. the class was kind of about organizational behavior and kind of about life. i have found his insights so deeply helpful! i'll probably share a couple of lessons from him here but i thought i'd start with a few of his core principles about power and organizations, mainly: how to create pockets of power and manage people politics.
first a definition: power is the actionable capacity to get others to do what you want. if you go even deeper, it is the actionable capacity to get others to want what you want.
one of the things kabi teaches is that there are three types of power: position power (where you are); expert power (what you know); and relational power (who you know).
long story short, you need all three and you need to be thinking about cultivating all three. as kabi says, you can say that playing "politics" is dirty or manipulative. but the reality is that it's not about manipulation, it's about navigating relationships and personalities in thoughtful and efficient ways so you can spend as little time as possible putting out fires.
lesson one: position power (your title, your role) is the end-all-be-all when markets and organizations are in a stable and predictable place. in calm times, position power is where it's at and what people care about. it's a big one.
but (lesson two!) it's not all about your title. you have to cultivate all three types of power. because when uncertainties increase, expert power and relational power becomes much more important.
one of the things kabi reminds you of is that (lesson three) power is not like energy, it CAN be created. so, you have to look for holes in the structure of an organization - gaps between the strategy and structure where things don't fully fit - and fill them in. this is where you can create pockets of power. and the way you do that is by using your expertise (expert power) and your relationships (relational power).
so, in summary:
1. know there are three types of power. be thoughtful about positioning yourself to have formal and informal power so you can navigate times both good and rocky.
2. position power is great but make sure to cultivate and leverage your expertises and your network for when change hits.
3. as much as we all want to avoid organizational politics and drama, there are pushes and pulls in any organization. so being aware of how you and the people around you are shifting the levers will always be a source of power.