Power: Summary Review

This is a summary review of Power containing key details about the book.

What is Power About?

"Power" by Jeffrey Pfeffer explores the ways in which power affects organizational behavior and the strategies individuals can use to gain and maintain power in their own careers.

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Some people have what it takes, and others don’t— the author explores why in Power. As one of the greatest minds in management theory, he shows readers how to succeed and wield power in the real world.

Summary Points & Takeaways from Power

Some key summary points and takeaways from the book include:

* Power is a fundamental part of organizational life and affects all aspects of work, including decision-making, conflict resolution, and career advancement.

* There are several sources of power, including formal authority, expertise, and personal attributes such as charisma and likability.

* Gaining and maintaining power requires a combination of hard work, effective communication, and a willingness to take calculated risks.

* Power can be used for positive or negative purposes, and those who wield power must be aware of the impact their actions have on others.

* It is important to be aware of the power dynamics in your organization and to cultivate relationships with those who have influence.

* To build and maintain power, individuals must continually develop their skills and stay abreast of changes in their industry or field.

* Overall, "Power" provides a comprehensive look at the role of power in organizations and offers practical strategies for gaining and using power effectively.

Who is the author of Power?

Jeffrey Pfefferis the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.


Summary Note: Power and success are not earned solely by following rules

The common belief that positions of power and success are earned solely by following the rules is a misconception, according to the book. Studies show that there is not much of a link between job performance and promotions, and this belief can prevent people from adopting successful techniques used by others who have achieved power through nefarious means. The just-world hypothesis, which assumes that successful people are those who follow the rules, can limit people's understanding of how power and success are achieved. While it is important to follow rules and behave ethically, it is also important to recognize that there are useful techniques that can be learned from those who have achieved power through unconventional means. By being open to learning from a wider range of sources, individuals can expand their understanding of how power and success are achieved and increase their chances of achieving their own goals.

Summary Note: Developing Your Personal Power

The book explores the theme of personal power, and how to develop the qualities needed to succeed in leadership roles. The first main idea challenges the common misconception that power and success are earned by those who follow the rules, and encourages individuals to learn from the success of those who have achieved power through unconventional means. The author emphasizes the importance of a self-assessment to identify personal strengths and weaknesses, and to develop the qualities necessary for strong leadership. These qualities include confidence, energy, empathy, resiliency, and self-awareness. By understanding and developing these qualities, individuals can increase their personal power and achieve their goals.

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Summary Note: Landing in the Right Department: A Key Factor in Pursuit of Power

When building a career, it's essential to consider the power dynamics within companies and even within different departments of the same company. A study on the career paths of managers in a public utility company revealed that those who started in more high-powered departments had higher salary growth and better chances of landing in powerful departments in other companies when they switched jobs.

To determine which department is most powerful, there are three factors to consider. Firstly, relative pay - more powerful departments tend to offer higher salaries. Secondly, physical proximity to top leadership, which can indicate the level of influence that department has in the company. Finally, it's important to examine the composition of important committees, like the board of directors, to see which departments have higher representation.

Knowing which department is most powerful can be critical in pursuing power and career advancement. However, it's important to remember that power dynamics can vary from company to company and even change over time, so it's essential to stay aware and adaptable. Ultimately, landing in the right department can give you a significant advantage in the pursuit of power, so it's worth taking the time to research and evaluate your options carefully.

Summary Note: Getting Noticed: The Importance of Standing Out in Career Advancement

In today's highly competitive job market, getting noticed can be a challenge. However, standing out from the crowd is essential for career advancement, and there are several ways to achieve this. One of the most effective methods is to ask powerful people for help. For example, by inviting your boss to a lunch meeting and asking for advice on how to get promoted, you demonstrate confidence and initiative.

Many people are afraid to take this step, but studies show that people overestimate the likelihood of rejection. Asking for help can also be a way to network and build relationships with influential people. However, asking for help is only the first step; you also need to be memorable and stand out from the crowd.

Breaking the rules occasionally can be an effective way to be remembered. This doesn't mean breaking laws or company policies, but rather going against the grain in some way. For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo is known for being an excellent soccer player, but he also stands out because of his over-the-top narcissism. While this approach may not work for everyone, finding ways to differentiate yourself can be a powerful tool in career advancement.

Another key aspect of standing out is being visible. Participating in meetings, taking on challenging assignments, and volunteering for special projects are all ways to increase your visibility and demonstrate your skills and expertise. By being proactive and taking initiative, you can demonstrate your value to the organization and increase your chances of career advancement.

Summary Note: The Power of Reciprocity: Why Helping Others is Key to Getting Help

The fifth power main idea centers around the concept of reciprocity, the idea that people feel compelled to return favors when someone does something for them. The author argues that if you want to get help from others, you need to find a way to help them first, whether it's by sharing your resources or treating them fairly and politely.

One example of this is providing social support, money, or career advice to others in exchange for their help. When you provide something of value, it creates an obligation for the other person to return the favor. For instance, if a colleague offers to help you move, you might feel compelled to offer help in return or feel that you owe them something in the future.

Furthermore, helping others with simple tasks that they would otherwise avoid can earn you a lot of gratitude. In the workplace, volunteering to help organize a team-building day, for example, can go a long way in showing your boss that you are a valuable team player.

Finally, treating others fairly and politely is another way to earn respect and build relationships. The example of Willie Brown, a Democrat who gained support from ideologically opposed Republicans, demonstrates that when people are treated with respect and fairness, they are more likely to support you in return.

Summary Note: The Power of Exuding Power

One of the main ideas is that the way you present yourself can greatly influence the way people interact with you, and this can be a powerful tool in achieving success. Politicians understand this principle well and use it to their advantage by displaying dominant behavior and speaking slowly and deliberately. However, this doesn't only apply to politicians. Anyone can exude power in their interactions with others by using these techniques.

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One way to display dominance is by expressing anger when you disagree with something. This can make you appear strong, competent, and smart. However, it's important to use this strategy wisely and not overdo it, as too much anger can backfire and make you appear unstable or difficult to work with.

Another way to exude power is by taking your time when speaking. This shows that you are thoughtful and deliberate in your communication, and it can prevent you from making mistakes or contradicting yourself. Successful politicians and leaders often speak slowly and deliberately, taking the time to think about what they're going to say and ensuring that it's clear and consistent.

Summary Note: Reputation is Key to Power

One of the main ideas in the book is the importance of reputation. Your reputation can be an incredibly powerful tool in achieving success, and once established, can be difficult to change. People tend to form judgments and make assumptions about you based on their perceptions, and cognitive discounting means they will seek evidence to support those beliefs, while ignoring evidence to the contrary.

In order to build a good reputation, it is important to make a positive first impression. This is because first impressions can be lasting, and it can be difficult to change someone's opinion of you once it has been formed. It is also important to be consistent in your behavior, as this will reinforce people's opinions of you.

Building a good reputation takes time and effort, but it is worth it in the long run. A good reputation can open doors and help you achieve success, while a bad reputation can close doors and hinder your progress. It is important to be mindful of your behavior and how it is perceived by others, as this can have a significant impact on your reputation. Ultimately, your reputation is a reflection of your character and integrity, and it is up to you to ensure that it is a positive one.

Summary Note: Overcoming Conflict and Failure on the Path to Power

The book reminds us that conflict and failure are inevitable on the path to power. Successful leaders don't shy away from confrontation, but they also don't engage in unnecessary conflicts. Instead, they choose their battles wisely and fiercely defend themselves when someone stands in the way of their goals. However, they also offer their opponents a graceful way to retreat, recognizing the importance of not making permanent enemies.

Another important aspect of dealing with conflict is learning how to move forward after a loss. It's natural to want to retreat after a failure, but giving in to that temptation will only hold you back. Instead, use the failure as an opportunity to start fresh and try again. Steve Jobs, for example, was fired from Apple in 1985, but he didn't let that defeat him. He went on to start two successful companies, NeXT and Pixar, and later called the whole experience "the best thing that could have happened to me."

This main idea emphasizes the importance of resilience and perseverance. Successful leaders don't let failures or setbacks hold them back. Instead, they use those experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. They also recognize that conflicts will arise, and they're not afraid to confront those challenges head-on. By choosing their battles wisely and offering opponents a graceful way to retreat, they're able to avoid making permanent enemies and maintain positive relationships. Ultimately, the ability to overcome conflict and failure is a crucial element on the path to power.

Book details

  • Print length: 288 pages
  • Genre: Business, Nonfiction, Psychology

* The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways. If you're interested in furthering your personal development, I invite you to check out my list of favorite personal development books page. On this page, you'll find a curated list of books that have personally impacted my life, each with a summary and key lessons.

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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