You owe it to yourself and your career to read this book! I’ve never seen a better account of how Power works in the corporate environment and what we can do to ensure we emerge on the right end of the scale when things happen. It’s filled with revelations and corrects many misconceptions – such as the idea that performance matters above all else in earning Power.
Below are some of the voluminous notes I took on this book. I also posted this on my SlideShare page if you want to download it or print it off as a Word document.
But make sure you buy your own copy of the book! Don’t rely on my crib sheet below. There is so much more in there!
“Power” by Jeffrey Pfeffer – Key Takeaways
- Like it or not, self-promoters get rewarded
- The best way to acquire power is to construct a positive image and reputation, in part by co-opting others to present you as successful and effective.
- Learn from all situations and all people, even those I don’t like or respect.
- Pay particular attention to the people holding positions I aspire to.
- If someone is seen to prosper, there is a social psychological tendency for observers to decide that the lucky person must have done something to deserve his good fortune. He or she becomes a better person simply by virtue of the observed rewards.
- Conversely, if something bad happens to someone, the belief in a just world causes the conclusion that the victim must have been a bad person.
- Success, however achieved, will promote efforts to find the many positive virtues in those who are successful – thereby justifying their success.
- Paying attention to what departments are represented in powerful positions provides an important clue as to where the power lies.
- Belief that the world is a just place.
- People want the world to be controllable and predictable, thus they want to believe the world is just, and thus if you behave by the rules you will be all right, or if you fail to follow the rules bad things will happen.
- Hand-me-down management formulas that reinforce this false belief.
- Don’t self-handicap. People are afraid of setbacks and implications for their self-image; so they often don’t do all they can to increase their power.
- Get over yourself and beyond your concerns with self-image, or, for that matter, the perception others have of you. Others aren’t worrying or thinking about you that much anyway! They are mostly concerned with themselves.
Politics vs. Performance
- People who had more political skill received higher performance evaluations and were rated as more effective leaders.
- As long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.
- One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that good performance – job accomplishments – is sufficient to acquire power and avoid organizational difficulties. Consequently, people leave too much to chance and fail to effectively manage their careers.
- If you are going to create a path to power, you need to lose the idea that performance by itself is enough.
- Research shows that job performance matters less for your evaluation than your supervisor’s commitment to and relationship with you.
- Loyalty: CEOs tend to put loyalists in senior positions – regardless of what past incumbents have accomplished.
- You need to be noticed, influence the dimensions used to measure your accomplishments, and mostly make sure you are effective at managing those in power – which requires the ability to enhance the ego of those above you.
Leadership: Myth vs. Reality
Most books on leadership written by former CEOs and the like gloss over the power plays they had to make and further the fallacy in the “just world” theories.
- Leaders overemphasize their positive attributes and leave out the negative qualities and behaviors. But those in power get to write history.
- Teaching on leadership is filled with prescriptions about following an inner compass, being truthful, letting inner feelings show, being modest and self-effacing, not behaving in a bullying or abusive way – in short, prescriptions about how people wish the world and the powerful behaved.
- Leaders are great at self-presentation. The ability to effectively self-present is why successful individuals reached high levels in the first place.
- Make sure those at higher levels in your company know what you are accomplishing. And the best way to ensure they know what you are achieving is to tell them.
- The importance of standing out contradicts much conventional wisdom.
- Emphasize those aspects of the job that you do well.
- Define job performance criteria in ways that are beneficial to you. (PR Reports example).
- The Exposure Effect: All things being equal, people prefer and choose things that are familiar to them – what they have seen and experienced before.
- Repeated exposure increases positive affect and reduces negative feelings, that people prefer the familiar because this preference reduces uncertainty.
- In order for your great performance to be appreciated, it has to be visible.
- In many cases, being memorable means getting picked.
Remember What Matters to Your Boss
- What matters to your boss may not be the same things that you think are important.
- Worry about your relationship with your boss at least as much (if not more) than you worry about your job performance.
- Don’t guess! Make sure you ask those in power, on a regular basis, what aspects of the job they think are the most crucial and how they see what you ought to be doing.
- Asking for help and advice also creates a relationship with those in power that can be quite useful, and asking for assistance, in a way that still conveys your competence and command of the situation, is an effective way of flattering those with power over you. Having asked what matters to those with power over you, act on what they tell you.
Make Others Feel Better About Themselves
- Do you, in how you conduct yourself, what you talk about, and what you accomplish, make those in power feel better about themselves?
- The surest way to keep your position and to build a better power base is to help those with more power enhance their positive feelings about themselves.
- Never directly criticize your boss or his/her performance. Ever. Bosses can be insecure and react badly to criticism that they feel reflects directly on them or their performance.
- If your boss makes a mistake, see if someone else will point it out. And if you do highlight some error or problem, do so in a way that does not in any way implicate the individual’s own self-concept or competence. For instance, by blaming the error on others or on the situation.
- The last thing you want to do is become known as someone who makes your boss insecure or to have a difficult relationship with those in power.
- One of the best ways to make those in power feel better about themselves is to flatter them. Research shows how effective flattery is as a strategy to gain influence.
- Flattery works because we naturally come to like people who flatter us and make us feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments, and being likeable helps us build influence.
- Flattery is also effective because it is consistent with the self-enhancement motive that exists in most people.
- Don’t underestimate or underutilize the strategy of flattery.
Looking at Yourself
- You need to see yourself and your strengths and weaknesses as objectively as possible. Do a self-assessment exercise and grade yourself.
- Get advice from others who are more skilled than you and will tell you the truth about yourself.
- Those who admit ignorance are more likely to improve in all domains – including power – versus those that either don’t know their deficiencies or are afraid to admit them to others.
Qualities That Build Power
- The two fundamental dimensions that distinguish people who rise to great heights and accomplish great things are will, the drive to take on big challenges, and skill, the capabilities required to turn ambition into accomplishment.
- The three personal qualities embodied in will are ambition, energy and focus.
- I know of almost no powerful people that don’t have boundless energy. Energy is contagious, and inspires more effort on the part of others.
- People often promote those with energy because of the importance of being able to work hard and also because expending great energy signals a high degree of organizational commitment, and, presumably, loyalty.
- With Focus, make sure you concentrate on those activities within your particular job or position that are the most critical – that have the most impact on getting work done and on others’ perceptions of you and your effectiveness.
- Particularly talented people often have many interests and many opportunities and can’t choose among them.
- You are more likely to acquire power by narrowing your focus and applying your energies, like the sun’s rays, to a limited range of activities in a small number of domains.
- The four skills useful in acquiring power are self-knowledge and a reflective mindset, confidence and the ability to project self-assurance, the ability to read others and empathize with their point of view, and a capacity to tolerate conflict.
- With Self-knowledge, read books and take notes of every significant meeting or interaction. Keep a notebook and learn from these exchanges.
- There is no learning and personal development without reflection.
- Empathy: What sometimes gets in the way of putting ourselves in the shoes of others is too much focus on the end goal and our own objectives and not enough concern for recruiting others to our side – or at least curtailing the likelihood of their opposition.
- Putting yourself in the other’s place is one of the best ways of driving your own agenda.
- Seize control of the situation. Because power is likely to cause people to behave in a more confident fashion, observers will associate confident behavior with actually having power. Coming across as confident and knowledgeable helps you built influence.
- Also note, intelligence is highly overrated.
Capacity to Tolerate Conflict
- Conflict is extremely effective for the perpetrator. Because most people are conflict-averse, they avoid difficult situations and difficult people, frequently acceding to requests or changing their positions rather than paying the emotional price of standing up for themselves and their views.
- If you can handle difficult and conflict- and stress-filled situations effectively, you have an advantage over most people.
- People avoid asking for help because they are afraid of being rejected, and it goes against the American emphasis on self-reliance. Also, requests for help are based on their likelihood of being granted: why ask for something if you are certain the answer will be “No”?
- The problem is that people underestimate the chances of others offering help. That’s because those contemplating making a request of another tend to focus on the costs others will incur complying with their request, and don’t emphasize sufficiently the costs of saying no.
- Rejecting an appeal for help violates and implicit and socially desirable norm of being “benevolent.” Would you rather be known as generous or stingy?
- In addition, turning down a request made in person is awkward.
- We are bad at predicting another person’s behavior, research shows. It is hard to take another’s perspective and see the world from his or her point of view.
- One reason asking works is that we are flattered to be asked for advice or help – few things are more self-affirming and ego-enhancing than to have others, particularly talented others, seek our aid.
- If you make your request as flattering as possible, compliance is even more likely.
- Play to the person’s ego. People love to give advice as it signals how wise they are.
- Research shows that people are more likely to accede to requests form others with whom they share even the most casual of connections.
- Asking for help is inherently flattering, and can be made even more so if we do it correctly, emphasizing the importance and accomplishments of those we ask and also reminding them of what we share in common.
Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out and Break Some of the Rules
- You need to do some things to stand out.
- In other words, you need to build your personal brand and promote yourself, and not be too shy in the process.
- You have to learn to defy these basic human impulses and say, “I’m the greatest, and here is why you need me for this job.” And do it without any hesitation or any doubt.
- He described his marketing strategy as almost seducing people to come to you and your company to see what you are about. One way of doing that was by doing things differently, which intrigued others and piqued their interest.
- You need to be interesting and memorable and able to stand out in ways that cause others to want to know you and get close to you.
- Rules tend to favor the people who make the rules, and those people are typically already in power and winning.
- When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win.
Likability is overrated
- Although it is desirable to be both loved and feared, if you have to pick only one, pick fear if you want to get and keep power.
- Research found two virtually universal dimensions used to assess people are warmth and competence. Here’s the rub: to appear competent, it is helpful to appear a little tough, or even mean.
- Negative book reviewers are perceived to be more intelligent, competent and expert than positive reviewers, even when independent experts judged the negative reviews to be of no higher quality.
- Nice people are perceived as warm, but niceness frequently comes across as weakness or even a lack of intelligence.
- People may oppose you, but when they realize you can hurt them, they’ll join your side.
Likability Can Create Power, But Power Almost Certainly Creates Likability
- People will join your side if you have power and are willing to use it. Not just because they know you can hurt them, but also because they want to be close to your power and success. People like to be associated with successful institutions and people – to bask in the reflected glory of the individual.
- People’s support for you will depend as much on whether or not you appear to be “winning” as on charm or ability.
- Research shows that attitudes follow behavior – if we act in a certain way, over time our attitudes follow. If we act friendly toward and adversary whose help we need, we will come to feel friendlier as well.
- Cognitive Dissonance: people seek to avoid inconsistency, and one way of accomplishing that is to adjust their attitudes to be consistent with their behaviors. What this implies is that if we interact with powerful people because we need them to do some task or to help us in our career, over time we will come to like them more or at least forgive their rough edges. And in choosing whom we will associate with, usefulness to our career and job loom as important criteria.
People Forget and Forgive
- We seek pleasure and avoid pain.
- We also forgive the slights and wounds inflicted by others, and are particularly likely to forgive people if we are in contact with them. And we are more likely to remain in contact if they are powerful. Over time, even the most contentious adversaries can become close friends.
- Controlling access to money and jobs brings power.
- Having resources is an important source of power only if you use those resources strategically to help others whose support you need, in the process gaining their favor.
- Research shows a correlation between campaign contributions and public officials’ voting behavior, partly because legislators reward their supporters and partly because PACs choose to direct their funding toward legislators with compatible voting records.
- Resources are great because once you have them; maintaining power becomes a self-reinforcing process.
- Power and resources begat more power and resources.
- Choose positions that have greater direct resource control of more budget or staff.
- When you leave a position in which you once had control over substantial amounts of resources, people will pay you much less heed and give you less attention.
- Building a power base is a process of accumulating leverage and resource control little by little over time.
- A resource is anything people want or need – money, a job, information, social support and friendship, help in doing their job. There are always opportunities to provide these things to others whose support you want.
- Helping people out in almost any fashion engages the norm of reciprocity – the powerful, almost universal behavioral principle that favors must be repaid. But people do not precisely calculate how much value they have received from another and therefore what they owe in return. Instead, helping others generates a more generalized obligation to return the favor, and as a consequence, doing even small things can produce a comparatively large payoff.
Provide Attention and Support
- Sometimes building a relationship so that others will help you requires nothing more than being polite and listening.
- Being nice to people is effective because people find it difficult to fight with those who are being polite and courteous.
- Small things can matter a lot – attending a birthday party, funeral, going to lunch with people whose help you want, visiting them or their family members when they are ill.
- Spend time with others at events that are important to them.
- Most people like to talk about themselves – give them the opportunity to do so. Being a good listener and asking questions about others is a simple but effective way to use a resource everyone has – time and attention – to build power.
Do Small but Important Tasks
- People appreciate help with doing some aspect of their job, and they particularly appreciate assistance with tasks that they find boring or mundane.
- CBS example: Making himself indispensible by working as hard as he could to find as much information as possible about any and every topic of possible interest to senior CBS management.
- Taking on small tasks can provide you with power because people are often lazy or uninterested in seemingly small, unimportant activities. Therefore, if you take the initiative to do a relatively minor task and do it extremely well, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to challenge you for the opportunity. Meanwhile, these apparently minor tasks can become important sources of power.
- Overcome the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon and use the mere exposure effect to your advantage.
- Build your reputation as someone who is willing to help out even if you don’t have to.
- Bringing people together entails your taking on a brokerage role and becoming central in social networks. Networking skills are important and the networks you create are an important resource for creating influence.
- You can’t select what you can’t remember. The effect of mere exposure on preference and choice is important and well demonstrated.
- Networking makes you more visible; this visibility increases your power and status; and your heightened power and status then make building and maintaining social contacts easier.
- People undervalue the importance of social relationships and overvalue others aspects of job performance in thinking about what produces career success.
- The better your social ties, the better the job you’ll find. Best jobs are found through personal contacts versus the formal application process.
- An optimal networking strategy is to know a lot of people from different circles, have multiple organizational affiliations in a variety of different industries and sectors that are geographically dispersed, but not necessarily to know the people well or to develop close ties with them.
- Power and influence comes not just from the extensiveness of your network and the status of its members, but also from your structural position within that network. Centrality matters.
- If virtually all information and communication flows through you, you will have more power.
- People attribute power to individuals who are central.
- You can assess your centrality by asking what proportion of others in your work, for instance, nominate you as someone they go to for advice or help with their own work.
Acting and Speaking with Power
- Observers watching people who don’t deny or run away from their actions naturally presume that the perpetrators don’t feel guilty or ashamed, so maybe no one should be too upset. (Oliver North example)
- Oliver North chose to convey incredulity – how could he be questioned? – and some righteous anger. Expressing anger is usually much more effective than expressing sadness, guilt or remorse in being seen as powerful.
- Our ability to convey power through how we act, talk and appear matters greatly.
- Authority is 20 percent given, 80 percent taken. You need to project confidence and assurance, even if you aren’t sure what you’re doing.
- If you act confident, you’ll become confident.
- Put on a show – it is important.
- Attitudes follow behavior. The emotions you express, such as confidence or happiness, are contagious –they influence those around you.
- To look engaged in meetings and other interactions, to signal you care about those around you, put away the BlackBerry, the laptop, the cell phone, and all the other technological gadgets that compete for your time and attention. When you read an e-mail while you are talking to someone or in a meeting, the message you send is clear: I have other things to do that are way more important than paying attention to you.
- It sends a powerful signal in today’s ADD culture when you stop, put away your gadgets and focus directly on the person in the meeting you are talking with.
- People who express anger are seen as dominant, strong, competent and smart. And of course they are seen as less nice and warm.
- People actually conferred more status on people who expressed anger rather than sadness.
- If you express anger, not only do you receive more status and power and appear more competent, but also others are reluctant to cross you. A bad temper is a powerful tool because most people don’t like confrontation.
- Self-deprecating comments and humor work only if you have already established your competence.
- Dress for the position you aspire to have.
- Physical settings can also convey power or status.
- Gestures should be short and forceful, not long and circular. Looking people directly in the eye connotes not only power but also honesty and directness, while looking down is a sign of diffidence. Looking away causes others to think you are dissembling.
- One reason people don’t come across as forcefully or effectively as they might is that they begin to speak while they are flustered or unsure of the situation.
- One source of power in every interaction is interruption. Those with power interrupt; those with less power get interrupted.
- One way in which someone in a dominant position can leverage that influence is to question and challenge the basic assumptions that underlie another person’s account. This is also a strategy to obtain power in an interaction.
- If someone challenges these assumptions – such as how the company is competing, how it is measuring success, what the strategy is, who the real competitors are now and in the future – this can be a very potent power play.
- Language that influences is able to create powerful images and emotions that overwhelm reason.
- Such language is evocative, specific, and filled with strong language and visual imagery.
- In addition to noting the importance of terms that push emotional hot buttons – in the United States, phrases such as “socialist,” “free market,” “bureaucracy” and “national security” – persuasive language that produces support for you and your ideas is language that promotes identification and affiliation. Words suggesting common bonds cause the audience to believe that you share their views.
- Use “us-versus-them” references.
- Pause for emphasis and invite approval or even applause through a slight delay.
- Use a list of three items, or enumerations in general.
- Use contrastive pairs, comparing one thing to another.
- Avoid using a script or notes.
- Use humor to the extent to the extent possible and appropriate. If you can make people laugh, you can tell them anything.
Building a Reputation – Perception is Reality
- Sometimes reputation adheres to individuals, but sometimes individuals get a good reputation by their association with high-status institutions.
- The fundamental principles for building the sort of reputation that will get you a high-power position are straightforward: make a good impression early, carefully delineate the elements of the image you want to create, use the media to help build your visibility and burnish your image, have others sing your praises so you can surmount the self-promotion dilemma, and strategically put out enough negative but not fatally damaging information about yourself that the people who hire and support you fully understand any weaknesses and make the choice anyway.
- First, people start forming impressions of you in the first few seconds or even milliseconds of contact.
- They read your facial expression, posture, voice and appearance.
- How you first present yourself matters a great deal.
- Seconds, and this may surprise you; these fast first impressions are remarkably accurate in predicting other more durable and important evaluations.
- Cognitive Discounting: once people have formed an impression of another, they disregard any information that is inconsistent with their initial ideas. This process is particularly likely when the decisions and judgments are consequential. Who wants to admit that we are wrong about something important, with the negative consequences such an admission has for our self-image? It is much easier to discount inconsistent information and seek data that buttresses our original assessments.
- Third, people engage in behavior that helps make their initial impressions of others come true.
- Behavioral dynamics tend to reinforce initial impression and reputations, making those impressions become true even if they weren’t originally.
- How people interpret what they see depends on their expectations that precede their observations. We see what we expect to see, so entering a situation with a reputation for power or brilliance is, other things being equal, more likely to have you leave the setting, regardless of what you do, with your reputation for power or brilliance enhanced. Impressions and reputations endure, so building a favorable impression and reputation early is an important step in creating power.
- Widely disperse your network building efforts and build many weak ties. Don’t get hung up on making a favorable impression in a single place, but instead find an environment in which you can build a great reputation and keep trying different environments until this effort succeeds.
- The best way to build relationships with media people is to be helpful and accessible.
- Write articles because they help clarify your thinking. Also, they boost your reputation online for when people “Google” you. (Getting hired through your Blog example.)
- Displaying some negative characteristics, as long as they aren’t so overwhelming as to preclude your selection, actually increases your power because those who support you notwithstanding your flaws will be even more committed to you and your success. The process is one of reputational inoculation – people can’t complaint about traits they know about and will come to discount any negative traits as being “just who you are.”
- The trick is to be sure you do things to build your reputation, have others tout you, and attract the kind of media coverage and image that can help build your power base.
Dealing with Opposition
- One way to deal with opponents is to treat them well and leave them a graceful way to retreat. Sometimes, co-opting others and making them a part of your team or organization carries the day by giving them s stake in the current system.
- Helping opponents move to another organization where they won’t be in your way may not be the first thing you think about doing, but it ought to be high on the list.
- If you make it easy and pleasant for your opponents to depart, they will. By contrast, once people have nothing left to lose, they will have no inhibitions or constraints on what they will do to fight you.
- You have to make critical relationships work. Your feelings, or for that matter, others feelings about you don’t matter.
- Make issues more about facts and look at things analytically and logically, so it is more about facts and less about emotions.
- Persistence works because it wears down the opposition. Stay in the game – opponents retire or take different jobs.
- In companies, in government, even in nonprofits, people who have any resource control use it to reward those who are helpful and punish those who stand in the way.
- Place your own objectives in a broader context that compels others to support you.
- When you mess up: if you are going to persevere and recover, you need to stop blaming yourself, letting your opponents dominate the discussion of what happened, and feeling bad about your complicity in your demise. The best way to overcome the embarrassment is to talk about what happened to as many people as quickly as possible. You will probably learn that you have more support than you think, and that others, rather than blaming you, will want to come to your aid. Also, the more you tell the tale, the less the telling will stimulate strong emotions in you. You will become acclimated to the story and desensitized to its effects. Making what happened less emotionally fraught is absolutely essential for your being able to think strategically about your next moves.
Act As If – Projecting Power and Success
- Situations are often ambiguous. Did you resign or were you fired? One of the ways others are going to ascertain how things turned out is by how you present yourself. Are you upbeat? Do you project power and success, or the reverse? This is why acting in ways that you may not feel in the moment is such an important skill. You want to convey that everything is fine and under your control, even under dire circumstances.
- People want to associate with winners.
Price of Power
- Getting and keeping power takes time away from friends and family. This is an inevitable cost of pursuing powerful, high-status positions that require time, energy and focus for success.
- The higher you rise in an organization, the more people are going to tell you that you are right. It leads to an absence of critical thought.
- People in power can become deeply self-righteous and believe their own hype.
- Power is addictive.
- You have to be tough enough when you are in power to remove people underneath who are trying to undermine you.
- It is tough to leave a powerful position because of the lack of attention/spotlight that goes with it.
How People Lose Power
- Power produces overconfidence and risk taking, insensitivity to others, stereotyping, and a tendency to see other people as a means to the power holder’s gratification.
- Having a position of formal authority or even being right is not going to win you the support of those whose mistakes you have called out. It is tough for those in power to see the world from others’ perspectives – but if you are going to survive, you need to get over yourself and your formal position and retain your sensitivity to the political dynamics around you.
- Expose yourself every now and then to a social circle that really doesn’t care about your position.
- When you are powerful and successful, you are overconfident and less observant – and one specific manifestation of such tendencies is to trust what others tell you and rely on their assurances.
- Being in a power position at a large, visible institution is difficult. You have to attend functions for people you don’t necessarily like – weddings, fundraisers, and funerals – sometimes when you would rather be doing something else. But you have to be at these events to fulfill social obligations and expectations and also to solidify your relationships with people who are important to your ability to do and keep your job.
- It’s easier to lose your patience when you’re in power – power leads to disinhibition, to not watching what you say and do, to being more concerned about yourself than about the feelings of others.
- To survive in the new world, managers need to be visible, marketable, and above all, mobile.
- Co-workers are not your partners – they are undoubtedly thinking about your usefulness to them, and you will be gone, if they can manage it, when you are no longer of use. You need to take care of yourself and use whatever means you have to do so. That has been the message of companies and business pundits for years.
- Responsibility and authority don’t always coincide.
- If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody else is going to.
- Be objective about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses.
- Be realistic about the political risks, not just to you but also to those to whom you are tied, if you want to build a path to power.
- Don’t voluntarily give up your power. It all depends on how you feel about yourself. If you feel powerful, you will act and project power and others will respond accordingly. If you feel powerless, your behavior will be similarly self-confirming.
- Behave strategically toward those with power over you, like your boss. Don’t let true feelings show.
- It may feel good to blow off steam or tell people off, but if the targets of your behavior are those with power, your good feelings will be quite temporary as the consequences of your actions unfold.
- People give away their power by not trying. If you don’t try, you can’t fail – which protects your self-esteem. But not trying guarantees failure to win the competition for power and status.
- If you do not put up a fight when your power is threatened, no one is going to pick up the battle on your behalf. People who are complicit in their own beheading don’t garner much sympathy or support.
- In hierarchical settings, colleagues are also competitors for promotions and status.
- If you don’t stand up for yourself and actively promote your own interests, few will be willing to be on your side.