Release Date: September 14, 2010
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More than 30 years ago, Rosabeth Kanter commented that power was the organization’s last dirty secret—a subject that made people uncomfortable. What was true then is more true today when many young people compete in swim meets where they all get ribbons and the leadership literature is filled with nostrums such as be authentic, modest, compassionate, and warm. But hierarchy still exists and seems inevitable given what we know about human psychology—and not everyone works in an organization where all have followed the good management advice getting dispensed.
Power is important for career success—maybe more important than job performance. And power is related, albeit not perfectly, to wealth, the ability to get things done, and even to longevity. Therefore, people need to acquire power and learn how to do so. Power, based on the latest social science research and filled with numerous examples from people from the public and private sector, at various career stages, and from numerous countries and companies, shows you how to obtain influence.
The book covers a range of topics including: building efficient and effective social networks, creating a favorable reputation and why it is important to do so, how to act and speak with power, coping with opposition and setbacks, the individual qualities that help make people powerful, how to develop resources, where to start your career, and why being likeable may make you influential but having influence will almost certainly cause others to like you.
Power provides examples of people at all career stages who figured out the rules, acted on that knowledge, and changed the game for their benefit. Filled with practical and sometimes counterintuitive advice, the book is a guide for understanding the world in which we all live.
Almost every year I teach sections of a class called The Paths to Power. Each year I wrestle with how to make the material and ideas in the class more accessible and engaging and also how to better inspire people to actually act on what they are learning. Power represents my third and best effort to help people understand why power is important, how to understand and diagnose power dynamics, and most importantly, what they can do to act on this knowledge to make themselves more influential and effective. My objective in the class and in this book is simple: to provide people with the information that will enable them to avoid ever having to leave an organizational position involuntarily.
Relatively few people come to Stanford business school and even fewer take the two sections of this class that I offer each year. But anyone can read this book and obtain much of the information and ideas from the course. The book summarizes the social science concepts that can help people understand power and act more effectively to obtain more influence and then I illustrate these principles with numerous examples of people at all organizational levels and from many different countries and cultures.
Power is my attempt to bring important information on how to gain influence to everyone so they can live a longer and more successful life.
The Economist reviews Power. Read the article
BizEd reviews Power for it’s Bookshelf section, calling the book a “…a bracing entry in the expanding library of books that offer to guide executives through successful careers.” Download PDF
“Power: Why Some People Have It–and Others Don’t. Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, posits that intelligence, performance, and likeability alone are not the key to moving up in an organization; instead, he asserts, self promotion, building relationships, cultivating a reputation for control and authority, and perfecting a powerful demeanor are vital drivers of advancement and success. The book has a realpolitik analysis of human behavior that isn’t for everyone but its candor, crisp prose, and forthrightness are fresh and appealing. Case studies feature the careers of such leaders as G.E. CEO Jack Welch, General George Patton, Time CEO and Chairman Ann Moore, Lt. Colonel Oliver North, and President Bill Clinton; and Pfeffer dispenses advice on how to overcome obstacles like “the self-promotion” dilemma, how to sharpen one’s “acting” skills on the job, and use tactics like interruption to appear more powerful. Brimming with frank, realistic insights on paths to the top, this book offers unexpected–and aggressive–directions on how to advance and flourish in an ever-more competitive workplace.”
“Jeff Pfeffer is of immense service to the world with his work, blending academic rigor and practical genius into wonderfully readable text. The leading thinker on the topic of power, Pfeffer here distills his wisdom into an indispensible guide.”
—Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall
“Talk about speaking truth to power! In refreshingly candid prose, Jeff Pfeffer offers brilliant insights into how power is successfully built, maintained, and employed in organizations. It’s well known that when Pfeffer speaks about power, smart people listen. This book shows why.”
—Robert Cialdini, author of Influence
“Professor Pfeffer’s class at Stanford made me uncomfortable as a student, and yet I’ve heard his voice and the important lessons he taught in many real world situations over the past 18 years. His book on Power will likely make you equally uncomfortable. Read it and reflect on its wisdom. It will make you more self-aware and give you an understanding of the political dynamics of organizations large and small – all critical to making you a more effective leader for change.”
—Jacqueline Novogratz, founder, Acumen Fund and author of The Blue Sweater
“Jeff Pfeffer nails it! Political skill, not just talent, is central to success in every field. In Power, this leading scholar comes down to earth with practical, even contrarian, tactics for mastering the power game.”
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Chaired Professor, Harvard Business School, and bestselling author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End and SuperCorp