Ask Dr. Fritsch

Scroll down to see Dr. Fritsch’s favorite leadership books and movies.


Keep your Enemies Close

“Keep Your Enemies Close” is one of the most controversial tactics in being political savvy. There are some variations, such as Sun Tzu’s quote of ‘know thy enemy and know thy self, and you will be victorious.” Another is Michael Correlone’s quote of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ in the 1974 classic movie, the Godfather II. Obviously, we don’t want to follow the example set by the remorseless Godfather.

Should you follow this line of thinking? Yes! The bottom line is your ‘friends’ are those who support your agenda. Your ‘enemies’ are those who do not. To execute personal or organizational agendas, you need both.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S President, perfected this strategy. He invited his most ardent critics (enemies) into his Cabinet: William Seward, Edward Bates, and Salmon Chase. All hotly opposed him in the 1860 election. In her prize winning book, Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin illustrated how Lincoln transformed these enemies into friends by repairing injured feelings, sharing credit, and learning from one’s mistakes. In her eyes, Lincoln’s unusual cabinet allowed him to lead the country stalwartly and compassionately through an unprecedentedly violent time.

The lesson: Spend the time to transform your enemies into friends. Imagine what you can accomplish if your friends and enemies are of the same accord. Lincoln did, and so can you!

Gracious and Classy

Gracious and Classy

A cardinal rule I always insist my clients to embody is to be gracious and classy. defines gracious as “marked by tact and delicacy” and classy as “having or reflecting high standards of personal behavior.” In other words, leaders should have a high level of integrity, compassion, and the ability to act in a way that maintains good relations. Successfully engaging in organizational politics requires all three. Think of the leader who people admire and seems to consistently get ahead. Think of the leader who offers an opposing leader the opportunity to ‘save face’ i.e. to gracefully withdraw his argument while still retaining his/her self-esteem. Unless you’re in a totally corrupt organization, this person is gracious and classy. This leader matches his/her ambition with the organization’s and always brings his/her staff, peers, and supervisors along.

Early in my career, I coached a CEO in the technology industry who burned through his c-suite and other senior leader staffs to accomplish his goals. He had a 20% retention rate of keeping any of them beyond 2 years. No wonder he struggled to move his company to the next level! He enticed these leaders to come work with him through charm, inspiration, and monetary reward. He convinced them they understood the company’s goals as well as their own. Then, as the company continued to fail, he blamed and criticized them publicly. He created fear as the leaders wondered who would be the next one to be terminated. He lacked graciousness and class. WITH these qualities, he would have created transparency and alignment of everyone’s goals, including those of the company. He would have demonstrated integrity by treating these individuals compassionately. Cooperation among his staff would have occurred naturally as they wouldn’t spend the time talking about who was next for the guillotine. A healthy company with growth and a highly motivated staff would have been the result.

The lesson in this blog: ALWAYS be gracious and classy.

Political Capital – How Do I Get It?

Political Capital

What is political capital and why do you need it?

With American lawmakers supporting or vetoing critical legislation, the term ‘political capital’ is quintessential. It is a currency used to influence an outcome.  It is a currency of exchange. ‘I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine’ is the proverbial expression describing how a political leader asks for another’s help with the promise that the favor will be returned.  Business leaders need capital, too.  In an increasingly interdependent world, leaders cannot operate in a vacuum.  They are partially dependent upon others.  Successful leaders seek to build capital.  Once earned, they must gauge how to spend it to get the most impact from the exchange.

How do you get it?  Create meaningful goals that benefit many.  Help others to achieve theirs.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Success and generosity breed capital.

Introduction to Organizational Politics and Political Savvy

NOTE: This is my first blog and my first entry. Like riding a bike for the first time, I am certain I will wipe out and need training wheels for a bit.  Please be patient.

The purpose of this blog and subsequent entries is to share my expertise on organizational politics, political savvy, and social networks.  The one constant among all of the senior leaders I coach is a deep abhorrence, but recognition that organizational politics is a fact of life. One must be politically savvy to not just survive, but to thrive.

Perceptions of politics and political behaviors abound, and most are negative. Many believe to be politically savvy, they must be Machiavellian – powerful, manipulative, and willing to step on others to achieve their goals. Incidentally, Machiavelli in his iconic treatise, The Prince, is decidedly value neutral on how to use politics to get what you want.  

The net/net is that most people would prefer to brush their teeth with steel wool and rinse their mouths with battery acid than “play politics.”

Dr. Joel DeLuca, author of the book, Political Savvy, defines organizational politics as how power and interests play out in the organization” (p. 42). He defines political savvy as ethically building a critical mass of support for an idea you care about.” (p. 112).

Well, these definitions don’t sound so evil.

Consider this…

What could you accomplish if you shifted your perspective? 

What if you adopted parts of DeLuca’s political savvy definition – ethically building critical support about your idea?  Nothing wrong with this idea.

When you open your mind to new perspectives, you create a space to generate options. Generating options is one of my Savvy Rules, but you’ll have to wait for its explanation in another post. I read somewhere you should have less than 700 words in a posting, and I don’t want to blow my credibility with my first blog.

The lesson in this blog is:

Open your mind to new perspectives.  Jettison the notions that all politics are disgusting and being savvy is immoral. These beliefs do not serve you or your organization.

Over the next weeks and months, I will offer stories and tips about how leaders successfully navigate organizational politics to:

  • Influence
  • Propose new ideas
  • Access key decision-makers
  • Build valuable relationships
  • Gain power
  • Receive promotions
  • Leverage social networks

I will help you get what you want with integrity.  Stay tuned…



Please click on some of Dr. Fritsch's favorite books or movies to learn more about her leadership philosophies.


The Leadership Moment
The Leadership Moment

Michael Useem (1999)

By far, this is Dr. Fritsch's favorite leadership book. It highlights true stories of leaders who must demonstrate wisdom and courage to overcome wide-spread disaster.

Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations
Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations (1992)

Jeffrey Pfeffer

A seminal work on power, this book focuses almost exclusively on the types of power and how they can be used to influence others within the organization. It is a must read for those who are new to power and politics.

The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need to Know
The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-Of-The-Matter Facts You Need to Know (2010)

James Kouzes and Barry Posner

This quick read is a condensed, nuts and bolts version of classic leadership principles. You cannot go wrong reading anything by Kouzes and Pozner.

Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings
Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings (2012)

Charles Kadushin

It is very academic in nature, but you don't need a PhD to understand the basics of social network analysis and its applications.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)

Dale Carnegie

Almost everyone knows this book and for good reason. It remains the easiest treatise on how to gain influence and use it to persuade others.

A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005)

Doris Kearns Goodwin

It is a dense read, but it's worth it. It reveals how Lincoln successfully navigated politics by understanding the political environment and harnessing strong, opposing personalities to serve on his team. The 2012 academy award winning movie, "Lincoln," was based upon this work.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (2010)

Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This book explains how the rational mind can war with the emotional mind. The former addresses what to change while the latter explains how to change. The authors, not surprisingly, assert the two must be in sync.

How to Fly a Horse
How to Fly a Horse (2015)

Kevin Ashton

It is one of many books recently published that focuses on innovation in the 21st century. It makes Dr. Fritsch's list because of the quote, "Embrace doubt and make certainty your enemy. If you can change your mind, you can change anything."

Getting to Yes
Getting to Yes (1981)

Roger Fisher and William Ury

In somewhat obscurity now, this book reminds us that essentially every successful negotiation occurs by building positive relationships, exercising power, and exerting influence. Exemplary leadership includes the same factors.

The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees
The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees (2011)

Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald

This book is useful because it is one of the rare leadership books that focuses on how the leaders must build and leverage social networks and social media to achieve their goals.

Crucial Conversations
Crucial Conversations (2012)

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

This New York Times bestseller outlines communication skills to use in those crucial moments that can change our lives. Knowing how to express oneself in multiple environments is critical to gaining influence.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (2007)

Robert B. Cialdini, PhD

This popular, revised edition uses narratives to explore the psychology of persuasion and how it underscores the ability to influence.


Apollo 13
Apollo 13 (1995)

This gripping film of a nearly doomed Apollo space mission ranks #1 on Dr. Fritsch's list. There are countless examples of outstanding crisis and cross-organizational leadership among the astronauts, mission control and the various departments who worked tirelessly to bring the crippled Apollo spacecraft safely home.

Moneyball (2011)

This is a true story of a MLB general manager who has to build a winning team with flagging resources. Adopting an economic theory to maximize the talent he can afford, he is able to lead his team into the playoffs. This film depicts perfectly how leaders must recognize that organizations must change to be successful. "Adapt or die" is Dr. Fritsch's favorite line in the movie.

Secretariat (2010)

This feel good movie makes even the most cynical tear up. It is one of the most compelling true stories of female leadership. Facing financial ruin and male chauvinism, Ms. Penny Chenery never relinquishes her belief that Secretariat would be one of the greatest race horses of all time.

12 Angry Men
12 Angry Men (1957)

After the closing arguments in a murder trial, the 12 members of the jury must decide on a guilty/not guilty verdict. In opposition to the others, one juror questions the evidence presented. He demonstrates courageous leadership in his ability to stand alone and commit to what is right.

McFarland, USA
McFarland, USA (2015)

If you think Disney only releases children stories, think again. While this is a surprising choice, it is notable in terms of cross-cultural leadership. A Caucasian, high school cross-country coach leads his team of Hispanic youths to win California's first cross-country championship. The coach learned and adopted his runners' values and lifestyles, which created a strong, trusting bond. The film highlights key components of leadership - respect, compassion, and learning.

We Were Soldiers (2002)
We Were Soldiers (2002)

In terms of war movies depicting great leadership, it doesn't get any better. This true story of one of the hardest-fought battles in the Vietnam War highlights heroism, inspiration, quick thinking and commitment. Of special note is how the steadfast U.S. commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, instills confidence in his subordinates so that they can make the right decisions, even though they are cut off from the others.

Gladiator (2000)

There is no better film depicting servant leadership. It is a story of a humble, military leader and gladiator who fights for something bigger than himself - the future of Rome.

Fury (2014)

Set in WWII, a lone, American tank and its crew press on to help the Allies win numerous battles. The leadership question is: Should this strong leader protect his men and withdraw OR should he stay committed to the mission, knowing that it will result in his team's death? Watch the film and form your own opinion.

The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai (2003)

This movie has it all - servant leadership, disastrous leadership, and leadership through example and inspiration. Watch it to see multiple examples of great and poor leadership and their consequences. This film also illustrates the difficulty in leading large-scale change as Japan transitions into the Industrial Age.

Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips (2013)

This true story of a Somali pirate attack on an American cargo ship applauds the ship's commander, Captain Richard Phillips, and his quick thinking and amazingly calm demeanor in a terrifying situation.

Star Trek
Star Trek (The Original Series, 1966)

This extraordinarily popular series has a lot to offer in terms of leadership. It showcases a decisive leader who listens closely to his subordinates before making critical decisions. It also features one of the first multicultural teams: an African American communications operator, a Scottish engineer, a Russian navigator, and an Asian helmsman.

The Iron Lady
The Iron Lady (2011)

People either embraced Margaret Thatcher or were highly critical of her. This film highlights how this first female British Prime Minister breaks the glass ceiling and empowers women across the globe.