On Power

From a professor:

Pfeffer starts his guide to power by explaining why people should want it: Power can improve your health and increase your wealth, and it’s necessary to get things done.

Once motivated to pursue power, he says, people need to overcome the obstacles to getting it. Atop the list is the belief that good work is the key to success. Competence is overrated, Pfeffer says, as the titans of the financial industry have shown in recent years. “Great job performance by itself is insufficient and may not even be necessary for getting and holding positions of power.” Another obstacle is relying on the ubiquitous leadership literature written by people who tout their own careers as models but “gloss over the power plays they actually used to get to the top.” These leaders’ ability to promote themselves as noble and good is the reason they reached high levels in the first place, Pfeffer says. Their advice could be accurate, “but more likely it is just self-serving.” . . .

“We live in a world in which people believe, because of social media and because of a bunch of other stuff, that hierarchy is dead and that everybody’s cooperating with each other,” Pfeffer says. “And what I would point out to people is that it is still the case that there’s only one CEO, it is still the case there is only one president, there’s only one school superintendent, there’s only one congressperson from each district, there’s only one dean of Stanford business school.”

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