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Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't Hardcover – September 14, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 134 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pfeffer (The External Control of Organizations), 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. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Is the need for power an evil motivation driven by greed and lust, or is it a worthy goal that produces wealth, longevity, and leadership? Pfeffer asks us to consider the more positive reasons that we reach for power in our professional lives in order to feel in control, get wealthy, and achieve our goals. The desire for power is a topic that is often overlooked or disparaged in most inspirational leadership books because leaders presenting their own careers as models tend to portray themselves as noble and good, and omit discussing the power plays that they used to get to the top. According to Pfeffer, we need to stop seeing the world as a just and fair place, and actively develop those qualities needed to achieve power. He offers advice on how to obtain the initial position on the first rung of the ladder to power, how to take advantage of social networks, build a reputation, and overcome setbacks. Pfeffer never answers the question as to whether power leads to happiness, but he insists that having it will ultimately put you in a better place. --David Siegfried

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1 edition (September 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061789089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061789083
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been shuffling among academe, consulting, and private-sector executive positions for 35 years and this book really saddens me. (So much that I am writing my first Amazon review). The book promises to tell you about the "real" nature of leadership opportunities, disabuse you of your naive notions about what you might wish were true, and provide you with a set of techniques so you can successfully accumulate power. In a nut shell: liars, bastards, suck-ups and backstabbers win promotions most of the time and if you want to garner power, it's more important to play the game than to perform well. Which, I guess I actually agree with to a large degree, but that's only news to an academic. Ask any VP or above in a large corporation or see how many senior executives leave any company "happy." But what really makes me sad . . . I would have hoped that a professor of OB at Stanford would have included a chapter discussing whether this is a morally reasonable situation or at least what the instrumental impact on organizational effectiveness might be.

Some specifics: the word "ethics" does not appear in the index (nor in the book as far as I can tell); he uses Oliver North's testimony before Congress (you know -- when he lied) as a great example of effective "power speech"; he applauds Rahm Emanuel's profane screaming outbursts as effective positioning; he says that if a CEO trusts ANYONE, he (or possibly she) is a fool; that people actually like to work in hierarchic control and will gravitate to you if you are powerful even if they despise you. All of this without even a small nod to ethical or moral questions. And he never, ever questions whether one should consider pursuing happiness, satisfaction, spiritual fulfillment, or family rather than "power.
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Format: Hardcover
Want to get a good job? Want to move up the corporate ladder? What are the tools you are going to need?

A good education? Hard work and smarts? Being well liked?

Not so much, at least according to Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford Business School professor and author of numerous books on this and related subjects. No, despite popular notions and the usual urban myths, Pfeffer contends that the path to power is significantly different than the popular notions we were raised to believe.

In "Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't," Pfeffer sets out example after example of just how poorly served executives are by using the above listed methods and instead take a more aggressive approach to the utilization of tools like building relationships (always appear to be supporting your boss), networking, self-promotion (in healthy doses, but not too much), organizational visibility, control of information as well as the usual power profile advice on initial impressions, speech, posture, etc.

Pfeffer uses numerous examples - from the top of the corporate ladder (former GE boss, Jack Welch, of course, but also Bill Clinton, a former chairperson of Time, Inc, Ollie North and others) to those just getting started (including new recruits and interns) to illustrate what works and what doesn't in stark, cold terms. While Pfeffer admits that his techniques may not be for everyone or may make some squeamish, he recommends you try them anyway and keep your fears to yourself as you work your way up the corporate ladder, preferably quickly.

The only disappointment here is perhaps in the labeling.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read and reviewed all of the previous books that Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote or co-authored and consider this one his most valuable because his focus is much less on dysfunctional organizations and how to resuscitate them; indeed, he focuses almost entirely on what any ambitious person needs to understand about what power is...and isn't. Unlike his approach in any other of the previous books, Pfeffer establishes a direct rapport with his reader and seems to be saying, in effect, "Over the years, I've learned a great deal about power will now share with you what I hope you will find most interesting and, more to the point, most useful." In the Introduction, for example, he suggests that having power is related to living a longer and healthier life, that power and the visibility and stature that accompany can produce wealth, and that power is part of leadership and necessary to get things done, whatever the nature and extent of the given objectives may be. "Power is desirable to many, albeit not all, people, for what it can provide and also a goal in and of itself."

Although Pfeffer does not invoke the core metaphor from Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in The Republic, I think it is especially relevant to the various misconceptions about power that Pfeffer refutes. The situation in Plato's allegory is that people are located in a darkened cave watching shadows dance on a wall. (The source of light is outside the cave.) They think they are watching ultimate realities. Rather, what they observe are images, yes, but also distortions. The same is true of the "just world hypothesis" that the world is predictable, comprehensible, and therefore potentially controllable.
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