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How To Gain Influence with Political Appointees

By Alex D. Tremble

Never let a crisis go to waste. Long before former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel raised this concept in 2008, Sir Winston Churchill was credited for sharing this concept in the mid-1940s. And although these words came from two completely different men at two completely different points in time, the circumstances in which these men shared this thought were the same. Rahm Emanuel made this statement during the most severe global recession in recent history, and Sir Winston Churchill made this statement as World War ll was coming to an end. Were these men heartless opportunists who took great pleasure in the misfortune of those around them? Or were they publicly voicing a perspective that all successful leaders must adopt to accomplish anything of significance for themselves and those around them?

Experts in leadership influence are constantly challenged by individuals who wholeheartedly believe that statements like the one above are inherently shady and nefarious. However, successful leaders believe that refusing to fully utilize proven strategies to help one reach moral and ethical goals is a disservice to all those around them, especially if one’s goals are to help their community by influencing the creation and implementation of government policies and programs. And, if influencing government policies and programs is one’s goal, then this article will explain how to develop an influence strategy that works.

Take Advantage of Uncertainty

To some, the idea, never let a crisis go to waste, originates with the truism that 99.9% of humans don’t like change. In fact, humans dislike change so much that they’ll even endure situations that are not in their best interests to maintain certainty in their lives. Hence the saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don't.” But, crises are different. The level of pain and uncertainty caused by problems actually creates opportunities for those with power to implement significant change with less resistance from those around them. And if an individual wants to be one of the few with authority to make real change, that person must ask themselves these two questions, “what is power?” and “how do I gain more power?” The first question is easy to answer. Oxford defines power as “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” Thus, “power” and “influence” are synonymous. The second question, however, requires a bit more discussion.

How Is Power Acquired?

Through many conversations with senior leaders about the acquisition and use of influence, influence experts have learned that it's tough to amass and properly wield power without first being comfortable seeking it. It is at this step where most aspiring leaders are stopped in their tracks. And, their hesitancy is understandable. Many successful leaders have felt uneasy about sharing their desire to gain influence. And, it is books such as “Power and Love” by Adam Kahane that teach them that:

1) No good deed can be accomplished without some degree of influence, and

2) The more influence you have, the more good you can accomplish for those around you.

Don't believe these statements? Could Dr. Luther King, Mother Theresa, Mohandas Gandhi, or Madam C. J. Walker have accomplished what they did with just their “good hearts?” Absolutely not. It was their political influence that opened doors that would have never been opened otherwise. They had POWER.

So, What Does This Have to Do with the 2020 Presidential Election?

This election season, leaders need to ask themselves, “how do I increase my influence to ensure that my priorities are supported?” This topic is discussed at great length in the political savvy, and strategic networking courses lead by Alex D. Tremble. Below is one of many strategies that can be used to gain influence.

Help People in Power Get What They Want.

There are only two choices following an election:

1) Fight to ensure that particular initiatives are perceived as relevant to the incoming political leadership so that they’ll move heaven and earth to ensure the initiatives’ success, or

2) Dig a hole in the sand and gently place one’s head in, hoping that the incoming political leadership won’t touch particular initiatives because they don’t care enough about them.

Hint. Option #1 is what influential leaders choose.

Most people fail to realize that the #1 priority of a political appointee is to further the President's agenda in the shortest amount of time possible. If an individual can help the political leadership accomplish this goal, that individual will become like gold to them! A more detailed example of how to strategically position an initiative to be championed by political appointees is found in the best-selling book, “Reaching Senior Leadership.

Option #1 In Action

A senior government official who employed option #1 shared the following story. The senior official developed two program proposals approximately six months before the 2017 presidential election, one if Hilary Clinton was elected and one if Donald Trump was elected. When creating these proposals, great attention was given to each candidate's campaign promises to ensure that the proposals’ language were in alignment. Once Trump was elected, the Trump proposal was further refined, and a full-out influence campaign was started. The goal was to make sure that the new political appointees were aware of this proposal and its impact on the President’s agenda. The senior official successfully convinced the new political leadership to support the proposal and was even given more resources to make the program larger. This all happened while other senior officials who chose option #2 endured significant budget cuts.

What Type of Leader Will You Be?

Looking back at the definition of power above, “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events,” it should be noted that the definition does not say that power is innately good or bad. Power is simply a tool to be used. Presidential elections are always chaotic, regardless of who wins. But, because there is so much chaos, confusion, uncertainty, and ultimately "crisis," there are also always opportunities for those with influence to further their agendas. People should take advantage of this election season by drafting policies, programs, and guidance to help promote the administration's goals while also furthering their goals. People should pride themselves on becoming influential leaders and always remembering to never let a crisis go to waste.

To learn how to develop relationships with influential leaders within any industry, you should enroll in a Strategic Networking course at


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