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on 7 December 2011
An interesting read, especially good in explaining misunderstandings around this 'loaded' concept of power and influence within you, within a team or organization. I would certainly recommend Jefffrey Pfeffer's excellent article on 'Power Play' (HBR July 2010) to get a good overview on this topic.

Here I liked Jeffrey Pfeffer's ability to point out the importance in how to deal, handle and use power. He points out to the actual reality regarding power play in all organizations. I can imagine for example that the chapter 'It takes more than performance' will be an eye-opener for many. If I want to be completely honest I have to say I liked some of Pfeffer's other books better, still this book here is probably going to have the biggest impact on yourself and in your career if applied properly.

Highly recommended, especially if you have strong reservations regarding 'power'.


Introduction: be prepared for power
- Why you should want power
- Stop thinking, the world is just a place
- Beware of the leadership literature
- Get out of your own way
- A guide to using this book

1. It takes more than performance.
- The weak link between performance and job outcomes
- Get noticed
- Define the dimensions of performance
- Remember what matters to your boss
- Make others feel better about themselves

2. The personal qualities that bring influence
- Change is always possible
- Do an objective self-assessment
- Seven important personal qualities that build power
- Intelligence

3. Choosing where to start
- Unexpected paths to power
- What makes some departments more powerful than others
- Diagnosing departmental power
- The trade-off: A strong power base versus less competition

4. Getting in: Standing out and breaking some rules
- Asking works
- Don't be afraid to stand out and break the rules
- Likability is overrated

5. Making something out of nothing: Creating resources
- Creating something out of almost nothing

6. Building efficient and effective social networks
- A definition of networking and networking skills
- Networking jobs
- The ability to network is important in most jobs
- Network skills can be taught and learned
- Spend sufficient time
- Network with the right people
- Create a strong structural position
- Recognize the trade-offs

7. Acting and speaking with power
- Acting with power
- Speaking powerfully

8. Building a reputation: Perception is reality
- You get only one chance to make a first impression
- Carefully consider and construct your image
- Build your image in the media
- Overcome the self-promotion dilemma
- The upside of some negative information
- Remember : Image creates reality

9. Overcoming opposition and setbacks
- Overcoming opposition: How and when to fight
- Coping with setbacks

10. The price of power
- Cost 1: Visibility and public scrutiny
- Cost 2: The loss of autonomy
- Cost 3: The time and effort required
- Cost 4: Trust dilemmas
- Cost 5: Power as an addictive drug

11. How - and why - people lose power
- Overconfidence, disinhibition, and ignoring the interests of others
- Misplaced or too much trust
- People lose patience
- People get tired
- The world changes, but tactics don't
- Leave gracefully

12. Power dynamics: Good for organizations, good for you?
- Power and hierarchy are ubiquitous
- Influence skills are useful for getting things done
- Political influence versus hierarchy in decision making

13. It's easier than you think
- Building your path to power
- Surviving and succeeding in organizations

For further reading and learning
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on 4 September 2011
Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't, offers a lifetime of reflection and sage advice coming from a distinguished author whose previous book Managing with Power (1993), still appears timeless and relevant. As a genre, most management books have a very short life span and even shorter recall for practical business people - however, Pfeffer's books seem to defy this generality.

Jeffrey Pfeffer's new book on Power shatters many misperceptions, especially the myths of meritocracy in organizations and talent as the only or most important quality required for success. Whether one is a fresh MBA graduate, a mid-level or even senior-level manager, Pfeffer offers insights from a broad range of professions including law, medicine, academia, even non-profits, and of course business, that are relevant and worth remembering for the lessons they hold.

Depending on where one is in one's career, this book offers insights and points that hit home - the book can be described as a guide for the perplexed. His case studies are fascinating and riveting in their own right. The author's vast knowledge across diverse organizations and countries (his time frame encompasses the post-WW2 period) shows tremendous international awareness and 60 years of empirical data and facts. One can only marvel at how Pfeffer is able to pull it all together in a relatively short book.

Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't belongs in your vest pocket so that you can refer to it whenever you need to. The book will be valued most by practical people who want actionable advice - don't leave for the office without it.
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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 and 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. Worse yet, it implies that "people get what they deserve; that is, that the good people are likely to be rewarded and the bad to be punished. Most important," Pfeffer adds, "the phenomenon works in reverse: 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."

Pfeffer insists that the world is neither just nor unjust: it is. He also challenges "leadership literature" (including his contributions to it) because celebrity CEOs who tout their own careers as models tend to "gloss over power plays they actually used to get to the top" whereas authors such as Pfeffer offer "prescriptions about how people [begin italics] wish [end italics] the world and the powerful behaved." Pfeffer also suggests that those aspiring to power "are often their own worst enemy, and not just in the arena of building power" because of self-handicapping, a reluctance (perhaps even a refusal) to take initiatives that may fail and thereby diminish one's self-image. "I have come to believe that the biggest single effect I can have is to get people to [begin italics] try to become powerful." Pfeffer wrote this book as an operations manual for the acquisition and retention of power. Of even greater importance, in my opinion, he reveals the ultimate realities of what power is...and isn't...and thereby eliminates the shadows of illusion and self-deception that most people now observe in the "caves" of their current circumstances.

Here are a few of Pfeffer's key points that caught my eye, (albeit out of context):

In the workplace, "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." (Page 21)

"Asking for help is something people often avoid. First of all, it's inconsistent with the American emphasis on self-reliance. Second, people are afraid of rejection because of what getting g turned down might do to their self-esteem. Third, requests for help are based on their likelihood of being granted." (Page78)

"Power and influence [within social networks] come 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. Research shows that centrality within both advice and friendship networks produces many benefits, including access to information, positive performance ratings, and higher pay." (Page 119)

"Not only are reputations and first impressions formed quickly, but they are durable. Research has identified several processes that account for the persistence of initial reputations or, phrased differently, the importance of the order in which information is presented. All three processes are plausible. We don't need to know which is operating to worry about making a good first impression." (Pages 150-151)

Note: The three processes are attention decrement, cognitive discounting, and a version of the self-fulfilling prophecy, joined by a fourth (biased assimilation), all of which Pfeffer explains on Pages 151-153.

"Michael Marmot's study of 18,000 British civil servants - all people working in office jobs - in the same society - uncovered that people at the bottom of the hierarchy had [begin italics] four times [end italics] the risk of death as those at the top. [Check out Marmot's The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health, published by Times Books.] Controlling for risk factors such as smoking or obesity did not make the social gradient in health disappear, nor did statistically controlling for longevity of one's parents. As Marmot concludes, `Social circumstances in life predict health.' So seek power as if your life depends on it. Because it does." (Page 236)

Much of great value has been written about how to establish and then sustain a "healthy" organization. The fact remains, that cannot be achieved without enough people who possess sufficient power. In my opinion, Jeffrey Pfeffer is determined (obsessed?) to increase the number of such people, one reader at a time. Hopefully those who read this book will help others to acquire the power they need to be successful, influential, and most important of all healthy.
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on 16 November 2010
Unlike some of Pfeffer's previous books, this one is very clear and readable. Pfeffer explains how power works in organizations, lists the tactics and strategies that people use to gain and hang on to power, and shows what you can do to avoid being unwittingly the fall guy for other people's power plays. Pfeffer is not a self-help guru, he is a serious practitioner and academic, and it shows in this book because all findings and suggestions are backed up by research and evidence.

If you are not certain that you know how power works, or if you are competent and hard working but not getting the recognition and promotion you deserve, you need this book. If your other half is having a hard time at work because they are too nice, buy them this book, and read it yourself first.

You cannot afford not to know what is in this book if you work in an organization of any kind. If you work alone or are retired (or maybe simply very, very rich) the material Pfeffer covers is still interesting in that it explains much of how the world works.

Good luck!

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If power corrupts, why does everyone lust after it and worship those who have it? Power - used wisely - can keep you healthy, make you rich and let you achieve great things for humanity. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior, explains why seeking power is in your best interest and shows you how to attain power and keep it. He debunks the objections you usually hear from the powerless and the powerful alike. He lays out a step-by-step guide on how to start building your power, what you'll need and, most important, what it'll cost you to achieve. getAbstract recommends Pfeffer's somewhat-less-than-Machiavellian, but still useful, book to anyone who ever has felt powerless in work or in life and wants to power up.
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on 4 March 2016
I was disappointed by this book and almost felt cheated. Nothing is really new and essentially this is more of a summary of other people's work and insights. There are some great points but each is very much an introduction without much explanation of how it can be applied to daily life or to your career. There are very little takeaways that people inclined to be reading something like this don't do already.
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on 12 September 2013
It is a great book on power and influence! Talks about a basic skill in any business (and even life) setting. Jeffrey is one of the thought leaders in this area. Had a chance to attend one of his lecture/ workshops on the topic as well and found him impressive!
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on 17 July 2012
I think this is a excellent book, especially as I start my career.

I believe that I may even read it again,it lacks in depth analyses, but that also makes it quite readable. A very compelling book with material for further reading for those curious!
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on 11 July 2013
This job provides a very thorough, well-structured and easy read. It not only outlines how to gain power in your current position, but also how to choose you next (or potentially first) position based on power dynamics in organizations.
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on 2 April 2013
A very good book that fully justifies its positive press. A pragmatic and practical guide to power. More prosaic than Greene but all the better for it
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