Micro-Politics Approach to Leadership

Part of the Contributions to Management Science book series (MANAGEMENT SC.)


According to the prevailing opinion, the term “organizational policy” can be traced back to Burns (1962), who introduced it into social sciences. He considered political behavior to be the main driver for social changes in organizations. The term “micro-politics” might be defined as the portfolio of those daily tactics with which power is built up and applied in order to extend the room for maneuver and to defy external control (Neuberger 1995). From this perspective, power and politics become essential variables to describe leadership reality in organizations or, as Küpper and Ortmann (1992) put it, organizations are pervaded with politics. Making decisions, formulating rules, creating structures, distributing tasks, or providing instructions are political processes and the people involved are “micro-politicians” or “influencers” as Mintzberg (1983) names them. Consequently, political behavior in organizations is intended to promote or protect the interest of individuals or groups and thereby to threaten the interest of others (Porter et al. 1981). Such behavior is not regarded as being outside the legitimate systems of influence or as being clandestine, as Mintzberg (1983) understands organizational politics. Rather organizational politics and micro-politics behavior – opened and covered – are considered as day-to-day phenomena in organizations and the legitimate system is nothing else but the result of such behavior. Put differently, political processes are considered to be endemic to organizing and organizations (Hosking and Morley 1991). Furthermore, political behavior is not conceived as necessarily dysfunctional but as a matter of fact in organizations and a principal way in which people get things done (Bacharach and Lawler 1998).


Organizational Member Leader Behavior Organizational Politics Impression Management Political Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Ammeter AP, Douglas C, Gardner WL, Hochwarter WA, Ferris GR (2002) Toward a political theory of leadership. Leadersh Q 13(6):751–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bacharach SB, Lawler EJ (1998) Political alignments in organizations. Contextualization, mobilization, and coordination. In: Kramer RM, Neale MA (eds) Power and influence in organizations. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp 67–88Google Scholar
  3. Burns T (1962) Micropolitics: mechanism of institutional change. Adm Sci Q 6(6):257–281Google Scholar
  4. Burns I, Stalker GM (1966) The management of innovation. Tavistok, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Crozier M, Friedberg E (1980) Actors and systems: the politics of collective action. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Davis WD, Gardner WL (2004) Perceptions of politics and organizational cynicism: an attributional and leader–member exchange perspective. Leadersh Q 15(4):439–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Douglas C, Ammeter AP (2004) An examination of leader political skill and its effect on ratings of leader effectiveness. Leadersh Q 15(4):537–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Falbo T (1977) Multidimensional scaling of power strategies. J Pers Soc Psychol 35(8):537–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frost PJ (1987) Power, politics and influence. In: Jablin FM, Putnam LL, Roberts KH, Porter LW (eds) Handbook of organizational communication. An interdisciplinary perspective. Sage, Newbury Hill, pp 503–548Google Scholar
  10. Gandz J, Murray VV (1980) The experience or workplace politics. Acad Manage J 23(2):237–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gardner WL, Avolio BJ (1998) The charismatic relationship, A dramaturgical perspective. Acad Manage Rev 23(1):32–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giddens A (1984) The constitution of society. Outline of the theory of structuration. Polity Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Gray B, Ariss SS (1985) Politics and strategic change across organizational life cycles. Acad Manage Rev 10(4):707–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hardy C (1993) What do we really mean by power an politics? A review of the literature. In: Dlugos G, Dorow W, Farrell D (eds) Organizational politics. From conflict-suppression to rational conflict-management. Gabler, Wiesbaden, pp 1–26Google Scholar
  15. Harvey M (2006) Leadership and the human condition. In: Goethals GR, Sorenson GLJ (eds) The quest for a general theory of leadership. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 39–45Google Scholar
  16. Hickson DJ, Astley WG, Butler RJ, Wilson DC (1981) Organization as power. In: Cummings TG, Staw BM (eds) Research in organizational behaviour. JAI-Press, Greenwich, CT, pp 151–196Google Scholar
  17. Hosking DM (1995) Constructing power. Entitative and relational approaches. In: Hosking DM, Dachler HP, Gergen KJ (eds) Management and organization. Relational alternatives to individualism. Ashgate, Vermont, pp 51–70Google Scholar
  18. Hosking DM, Morley IE (1991) A social psychology of organizing. Harvester Wheatsheaf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Kipnis D, Schmidt SM (1983) An influence perspective on bargaining within organizations. In: Bazerman M, Lewicki R (eds) Negotiating in organizations. Sage, Beverly Hills, pp 303–319Google Scholar
  20. Kipnis D, Schmidt SM, Wilkinson I (1980) Intraorganizational influence tactics: explorations in getting one’s way. J Appl Psychol 65(4):440–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Küpper W, Ortmann G (1992) Mikropolitik: rationalität, macht und spiele in organisationen [Micropolicy: rationality, power and games in organizations]. Westdeutscher Verlag, OpladenGoogle Scholar
  22. Machiavelli N (1984) The prince. Bantam Classics, New York Reissue editionGoogle Scholar
  23. March JG (1962) The business firm as a political coalition. J Polit 24(4):662–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mintzberg H (1983) Power in and around organizations. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  25. Morgan G (1986) Images of organization. Sage, Newbury ParkGoogle Scholar
  26. Neuberger O (1995) Führen und Geführt werden [To lead and to be led]. Ferdinand Enke, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  27. Neuberger O (2002) Führen und führen lassen. Ansätze, Ergebnisse und Kritik der Führungsforschung [To lead and to let lead. Approaches, findings and critique of leadership research]. Lucius & Lucius, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  28. Pfeffer J (1978) The micropolitics of organizations. In: Meyer MW (ed) Environments and organizations. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, pp 29–50Google Scholar
  29. Pfeffer J (1981a) Management as symbolic action: the creation and maintenance of organizational paradigms. In: Cummings TG, Staw BM (eds) Research in organizational behaviour. JAI-Press, Greenwich, CT, pp 1–52Google Scholar
  30. Pfeffer J (1992) Managing with power: politics and influence in organizations. Harvard Business School Press, WatertownGoogle Scholar
  31. Porter LW, Allen RW, Angle HL (1981) The politics of upward influence in organizations. In: Cummings TG, Staw BM (eds) Research in organizational behaviour. JAI-Press, Greenwich, CT, pp 109–149Google Scholar
  32. Tierney WG (1996) Leadership and postmodernism: on voice and the qualitative method. Leadersh Q 7(3):371–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wrapp HE (1984) Good managers don’t make policy decisions. Harv Bus Rev 62(4):8–21Google Scholar
  34. Yukl GA, Falbe CM (1990) Influence tactics and objectives in upward, downward, and lateral influence attemps. J Appl Psychol 75(2):132–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Yukl GA, Falbe CM, Youn JY (1993) Patterns of influence behaviour for managers. Group Organ Manage 18(3):5–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Yukl G, Tracey JB (2002) Consequences of influence tactics used with subordinates, peers, and the boss. J Appl Psychol 77(4):525–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. Border Region StudiesUniversity of Southern DenmarkSønderborgDenmark

Personalised recommendations