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Customer Review

on August 19, 2011
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." (I'm not making this up: the last sentences in the book are, "So seek power as if your life depends on it. Because it does.")

The book comes across as kind of a scholar's version of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" minus the humor or an updated version of "The Prince" minus the historical gravitas. But what depresses me even more is that the reviews (as far as I've seen) are positive -- applause for "telling it like it is!" and "I've made this mandatory for my MBA classes." I'm really saddened at what our field has to offer. No wonder more and more people question whether business degrees are worth the money and whether business schools are fueling a pandemic of moral blindness.

Could I be reading it wrong?
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