Career advancement has two elements: technical and political. You have to master the technical aspects of the job before you can engage in the political. While both are important, political skill is ‘how you get things done’. The technical content is more like ‘what you do’.
The technical aspects of a job are the specifics subjects that are the essence of the work. For marketers, it’s the execution of the marketing stuff. For engineers, it’s the engineering. The technical component of a job is the information involved in the job and the techniques used to manipulate it.
The political parts of work involve the things required to achieve organizational results. Persuasion, resource allocation, supervision, lobbying, communication and presentation are the major elements of the political. The competition for attention, priority, promotion and advancement all happen on the political front.
As you advance in your profession, there are a number of choices and options involving the technical and political aspects of the work. Historically, organizations have assumed that most workers want to work their way into a series of jobs with increasing responsibility. In other words, once the technical stuff is mastered, your employer probably assumes that you want to move into management.
Not everybody wants or gets a trip to management nirvana. (Hell)
At some point, everyone faces a choice between moving into management and developing a more nuanced professional role. It’s possible that the financial benefits of progressing in management are significantly different than the compensation path in a purely professional role. This is an outdated model from the 20th Century.
Choosing the more political organizational role is simply not everyone’s cup of tea. Although many organizations behave as if leadership and management are synonymous, they are not. Both technical and managerial leadership are necessary to make an organization work.
Dreaming your job is not a one-time thing. Visualizing your future becomes easier as you develop a clearer picture of the choices. This aspect, leadership, is something to keep under constant scrutiny. Routinely ask yourself, ‘what kind of leader do I want to be?’ The answers begin with the difference between technical and supervisory leadership.