The Politics of Business Transformation

Decisions to transform a business are the product of organisation and political processes, but political coalitions exist in most organisations, which can support or hamper a business transformation effort.

This makes politics an unavoidable fact of life for anyone in a leadership position within a business transformation; and like the need for physical strength to succeed in sport, political intelligence (PQ) is a prerequisite for manoeuvring and managing the politics, in order to be successful in a business transformation leadership role.

Like it or not, and as for all leaders, PQ is something that business transformation programme managers and transformation executives need to accept, understand and master; but while organisations invest in training to help their people become more effective leaders, rarely does the training extend to PQ development.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
– Plato

Rational and Irrational Effort of Transformation

Many of us have heard the words; “the programme should be very simple because we’re only going to implement a vanilla solution” – then a few months later, word filters through that the programme has been labeled “Red” and that relationships between the client’s internal stakeholders, the client and third parties, and teams, are at an all-time low.

Problems often arise not from technology, but from people issues such as political tactics; and more effort in the technology space is often not the solution to recovery, because that will not address the political issues that live at the heart of the crisis.

In A Handbook of Business Transformation Management Methodology from theBusiness Transformation Academy (BTA) the authors provide the following two handfuls of examples of the rational and irrational effort of business transformation.

Irrational Effort Examples

  • Fears because of mass layoffs
  • Personal ambitions and interests
  • Hidden agendas
  • Political behaviour and actions

Rational Effort Examples

  • Technical implementation
  • Financial aspects
  • Human resources

It is the irrational effort which requires the PQ (and other leadership intelligences) that some technically brilliant managers and leaders often struggle with, and as a result, countless transformation programmes go wrong, and then from bad to worse.

Five other common causes of irrational effort in business transformation include:

  1. Lack of visible and vocal support from the CEO
  2. #1 above giving rise to confusion and competition among lower-level managers
  3. Stakeholders guarding their turf and autonomy
  4. Fear of transparency
  5. Threats to self-image, group-image or local-culture

Because the Business Transformation Management Methodology (BTM²) considers both the rational and irrational effort of transformation, the Global Business Transformation Manager (GBTM) training and certification from the BTA involves 10 days of coaching, which focuses heavily on the irrational effort of transformation, with a broad range of business coaches developing the leadership intelligences of course participants. Learn more about GBTM.

Political Intelligence (PQ)

PQ is a leader’s ability to interpret the intent and behaviour of others, navigate the diverse agendas of a multitude of stakeholders, and make progress towards the desired outcomes. This requires a mature blend of behaviours and skills to effectively manage and leverage the political landscape.

Politically intelligent leadership requires the capacity to interact strategically with all stakeholders and to shape a future for the greater good. Not all leaders have good motives, but leaders who have a mature level of PQ want to make a positive difference to the world, and they achieve this through their determination, skill, and readiness to learn more. They mobilise people they trust from their networks, and deliver a better future.

While attending a two-day BTA workshop with Prof. Dr. Andrew Kakabadse, I learned how the extent to which a leader needs to mature and draw upon their PQ increases up the organisational hierarchy. Also that in contrast, leaders appear to draw most on their emotional intelligence (EQ) at the management levels, and less so at strategic and governance levels.

We make a living by what we get and we make a life by what we give.
– Winston Churchill


The Five Facets of PQ

In their book “Leadership PQ”, the authors, Gerry Reffo and Valerie Wark, have presented their PQ model, which is a set of skills, behaviours and processes designed for leaders who want to work together to deliver better outcomes – to deliver profit, growth and better lives for future generations.

The model consists of five facets, each of which is supported by five performance indicators, which include a mix of behaviours, skills and processes. The five facets are:

  • Futurity
  • Power
  • Empathy with purpose
  • Trust
  • Versatility


Futurity is about being in a future state, and reflecting on the big issues, problems and challenges. PQ leaders imagine a better future where these are overcome and they know how to create the conditions to make that better future become a reality.


In a PQ context, power is the ability to build relationships and influence others with the intention of shaping the future towards both profit and a better place.

Empathy with purpose

Empathy is the capacity to imagine oneself as another person, emotionally to feel what the other person feels, cognitively to know how the other person sees the world.


Trust is the foundation of all great relationships, and leaders build trust through their behaviours which need to include integrity, transparency, inclusivity, consistency and reliability, and concern for the best interests of others. People either trust you, or they do not.


Versatility is about having a broad range of thought and behaviour and the self-command to use it intentionally. It is about responding swiftly and fully to demanding situations, knowing when to be flexible and subtle, and when to be strong and focused.

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
– Abraham Lincoln


The authors of “Leadership PQ” explain that while each individual facet is a valuable capacity in its own right, PQ mastery involves using all five facets in harmony. In the short video below, Gerry and Valerie talk more about the five facets of PQ.

Discover more about the work of Gerry Reffo and Valerie Wark

The book “Leadership PQ – How Political Intelligence Sets Successful Leaders Apart” contains 272 pages of deep insight to the PQ model, the five performance indicators of each of the five facets, along with case studies, a guide on how to develop each of the five facets of PQ, and more.

Having read their book, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in maturing their PQ.

ISBN: 9780749469603
Published: 3 March 2014 by Kogan Page
Order here

The 5Qs of Effective Transformation Leadership

I want to conclude this post by acknowledging that effective transformation leadership is not only about PQ, although PQ was the focus of this post, and the PQ model by Gerry Reffo and Valerie Wark, draws upon the other Qs.

In this article by Dr. Ali Qassim Jawad, Prof. Dr. Andrew Kakabadse and Mohamed Omar Abdulla, the authors explained that high-performing leaders simultaneously employ four key leadership intelligences, referred to as the 4Qs.

  • Cognitive intelligence (IQ)
  • Emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Moral intelligence (MQ)
  • Political intelligence (PQ)

They called these intelligences “the DNA of effective leadership” and described them as what provides an individual with the holistic and dynamic mind that is capable of analysing and addressing the challenges of complex transformation.

In an interview that I conducted with Andrew Kakabadse last month in Germany, he explained that one of his forthcoming books is called “The 5 Qs”, and that the additional Q is the Resilience Quotient. You can hear Andrew explaining the 5Qs in the final 5 minutes of this audio recording of our interview. Fast-forward to 17 minutes, 10 seconds if you only want to hear about the 5Qs book.

Read more:

Don’t Lose Touch

Simple Transformation Advice for Leaders

Release Your Inner Quixote!

7 Secrets of Super Successful Small Business Entrepreneurs

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Rob Llewellyn is a trusted advisor to the C-suite and one of the few certified and independent Global Business Transformation Masters in the world. Having provided professional services to some of the world's largest companies across Europe, Australia and the Middle East since the 1990s, Rob helps executives take an holistic and integrated approach to transformation using the Digital Capability Framework, BTM², and other management tools that lead organisations to achieving value-driven competitive advantages. Contact Rob via LinkedIn or or Twitter@robertllewellyn