Brief thought exercise: do you find/believe that more people get promoted based on innate talent, personality, or ability to handle politics?

Toss out what you know/think/believe about performance reviews and the ascension of some to the manager level. Think about this one logically.

If you’re going to get promoted, that ostensibly means (a) new (and broader) responsibilities and (b) possibly managing others (or bigger projects). For this to be achieved properly, you need innate talent, for sure. You also (ideally) need personality, especially if it is a role that will require more interaction with people (direct reports). You probably (likely?) need to know how to handle the office politics, because you probably (likely?) didn’t get noticed in the first place without having some context around how to deal with that. So clearly, all three are important (as well as other factors not being listed here).

Would you say one is more important, though?

Here’s a quick story: I had a job once where they did pretty strong performance reviews, at least for the top couple of salary bands. I got to attend a “rank” meeting (which was interesting in and of itself) and one of the “player cards” at said rank meeting basically listed out this guy — I will say he was a guy — who was pretty high up and navigating the waters well. On his “drawbacks” area, it said something like, “Very hard to work with; doesn’t foster strong relationships.” On his “five-year-plan” area, it said something like, “C-Suite. Possible COO.” In that case, it seemed to be talent and politics; personality was clearly tertiary. At other places, it might be different — and it should vary by organization, as each organization is different and needs different types of leaders.

The broader question I’m wondering about: in the modern era, is it possible to be simply talented, or simply politically adept, or simply very personable? Or do you truly need a blend?

Ted Bauer