The Emotional Intelligence of Pfeffers Power

I recently finished reading Jeffery Pfeffer’s Power: Why some people have it – and others don’t.  One of my favourite quotes from my venture capital days is “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”  Power is about the anti-entrepreneurs, people who join large organisations in government and business and seek to rise to the top.
This book is the complete antithesis of most gurus on emotional intelligence and leadership who stress collaboration, community and “open leadership.”  Teaching on leadership is filled with prescriptions about following an inner compass, being truthful, letting inner feelings show, being modest and self-effacing, not behaving in a bullying or abusive way.  Pfeffer’s view is completely the opposite; it takes power to get things done. Without power, you’re impotent and power is not gained through intelligence (emotional or otherwise) and job performance.  This is one of the key lessons in my workshops: you do not get promoted into management because you do a good job, but because your managers think you have the potential to be a good manager.  .  Too many people leave too much to chance and fail to effectively manage their careers.  If you are going to create a path to power, you need to realise that performance by itself is enough.
So what does Pfeffer recommend for the aspiring CEO?
You have to recognize that power is 80% taken and 20% given.  So if you want power you have to selfishly grab it, and most will put their career ahead of the company.  Most people are not willing to put that much into achieving the power they think they want.  Leaders are great at self-presentation. The ability to effectively self-present is why successful individuals reached high levels in the first place
You need to understand the importance of your personal network and work relentlessly to improve your networking as a skill.  One of the best ways to make those in power feel better about themselves is to flatter them.  Flattery works because we naturally come to like people who flatter us and make us feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments.  And flattery is also effective because it is consistent with the desire to improve oneself that exists in most people.  Make sure you ask those in power, on a regular basis, what aspects of the job they think are the most crucial and how they see what you ought to be doing.  Asking for help and advice also creates a relationship with those in power that can be quite useful, and asking for assistance, in a way that still conveys your competence and command of the situation, is an effective way of flattering those with power over you.
No guts, no glory.  If you want power, you have to seek opportunities to raise your head above the parapet.  Volunteer for tasks that others have shunned, or jump into a newly created role.  It’s easier to stand out when you have your own niche and easier to get ahead when you don’t have to expend a lot of energy fending off rivals for a coveted post.
The pursuit of power requires persistence. The difference between those who go on to become powerful leaders and those who do not rests in how they react to reversals.  Steve Jobs returning to the CEO position of Apple after being fired is a classic example.
People want to believe the world is just and thus if you behave by the rules you will be all right, or if you fail to follow the rules bad things will happen.  Unfortunately this is not true: 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,  CEOs actually tend to put loyalists in senior positions – regardless of what past incumbents have accomplished.  Of course this is not what CEOs say in their biographies.  They gloss over the power plays they had to make, overemphasize their positive attributes and leave out the negative qualities and behaviours.
Those familiar with the Humm components will realise that the two key components to rise to the top in the larger organisation are the Hustler and Politician.  You can read an extract on What Makes The Ideal Leader here.  Most people who work in larger organisations and do my workshops initially recoil in horror that these two components are the key to success.  By the end of the workshop they are working out how to develop them in their own personality.


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web