Eric Brechner of I. M. Wright's "Hard Code" fame, provides great insights in his latest article, Making the big time. Every role has pros and cons and as you go higher in the organization, the more you get embroiled in Politics.
Why do VPs and TFs, as well as GMs and directors, get caught up in politics? Because when decisions are widely separated from results, the right decisions become a matter of opinion. When decisions are a matter of opinion, politics play a significant role. This dynamic is reduced at an engineering company, like Microsoft®, since many executives are former engineers and insist upon the support of fact, data, and logic. However, the further you get from actual engineering, the more the door opens to personalities, gamesmanship, and alliances.
“But what about history—you know, case studies and best practices?” The applicability of the past to the unique situation in the present is subjective. There are always exceptions and counterexamples. If you are going to be a successful executive, you need to learn to play politics. You must know who trusts whom, who influences whom, who has what agenda, who owes whom favors, who is likely to support or oppose you and why, and what are the hot button issues for the key stakeholders.
It’s politics, plain and simple. It appears in every company and government once you get to a certain level of abstraction, where nothing is definitive.
Learn it now, to succeed later.