On any given day, citizens of any country can be seen busy discussing the politics of their country and they can have many dissimilar views.That being said, when citizens discuss the politicians of their country, they all think of politicians using the same kinds of words - “manipulative,” “deceptive,” “self-serving,” or “untrustworthy”; the kind people always scheming behind closed doors and smiling away false faces in the public.
The problem with politics as a 'career'
Robert Louis Stevenson famously said: ‘Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.’
It used to said, and it still is, in students's essays, for example, that politics is a 'calling' . Yes, right, you will say. A 'calling' to fulfill your dreams of power, furthering your own interests rather than the interests of others. A calling to unaccountable riches on the public's dime. A calling to become a 'career politician’.
'Career politicians' also tend to be unmoored to the needs and realities real world, so involved they become with the sordid business of getting and retaining power and all that endless tribulations of influence networks.
Becoming a successful politician takes skill (and some luck)
Political skill, or political savvy, may be abhorent in eyes of the regular citizen, but we must remember there is so much skill that goes into the making of your “influential,” “well-connected,” “resourceful,” or “socially astute" local politician.
A quick survey of skills successful politicians possess
What is political skill?
A definition of political skill is: “The ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal and/or organizational objectives”
The Centre of Creative Leadership lists five essential skills for politicians:
1. Social Astuteness: Reading people’s non-verbal behaviors, understanding people's motivations.
2. Interpersonal Influence: Establishing rapport with others, which is a prerequisite for people to like you.
3. Networking Ability: People will do things for you when you can show what you can do for them.
4. Apparent Sincerity: Sincerity may involve being transparent, honest, and sincere, Politicians subvert all this by faking sincerity like no one else can.
5. Image Management: Know what to say in any given situation. Making a good impression is top priority. Always.
Careers in Government adds some more skills:
6. Writing and Research Skills
7. Knowledge of Social Media
8. Crisis Management and Problem Solving
9. Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
10. Understanding Your Audience
CQ Net adds two more skills
11. Thinking before speaking (Avoiding 'foot in mouth' syndrome)
12. Managing up (communicating with / influencing / impressing superiors)
Ranker maintains an ongoing crowdsourced list of the most important qualities in politicians
Related guide: How to become a better politician (PDF)
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