This was the question posed to me by a colleague several years ago when I was frustrated with my boss who, I believed, was acting like a moron.
Like many people, I can be stubborn and prideful. There are lots of situations when I believe I'm right, and it turns out I'm only partly right, or not even close to right. In the situation with my boss, I knew I was right, and I think my colleague agreed with me. But my boss had a different idea – a grossly deficient idea.
As I sat in my office reviewing my boss's list of faults, my colleague stood in the doorway and asked, "Would you rather be right, or get what you want?" If I wanted to be right, I should stick to my guns, let the campaign strategy fail, and enjoy feeling smug and self-righteous after it's all over. If I wanted to get what I want, I should figure out a way to shut the door on my ego and work to influence my boss toward a more effective direction.
Influence is a useful skill to develop when working with other people. You have to learn the art of subtlety. You have to be likeable rather than selfish, and I find it more natural to be selfish.
Unfortunately, selfish pride seldom wins the day. We have to work with people to get things done. This isn't always easy since other people are selfish too. At the end of the day, my colleague convinced/influenced me to try harder to let go of being right and go after getting what I wanted. I played to my boss's ego, led him to believe that my ideas were his ideas, and we had a campaign that on the whole looked a lot more like my vision than his train wreck of an idea.
So next time your fragile ego is bruised over an office power play, consider the question, "Would you rather be right, or get what you want?" Each answer has distinct implications.