The #emotionalintelligence of Pfeffer on Power

One of my most treasured possessions is a copy of Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations.  It was published in 1992 and I had Professor Pfeffer sign it when he visited Sydney some 20 years ago.  Pfeffer is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on Power.

Recently Tony Surtees, a former employee who I convinced to attend Stanford, published a very interesting link to a discussion between: Professor Jeff Pfeffer and Dean Jon Levin of the Stanford Business School on Power.  It is worth watching.

The discussion begins with Pfeffer describing his recent book, The 7 rules of Power which are:

1) Get out of your own way.  Describe yourself positively and disregard any imposter syndrome feelings.

2) Break the rules.

3) Show up in powerful fashion.  Act confidently and convince people the opposite can happen.

4) Create a powerful brand.

5) Network relentlessly.

6) Use your power.

7) Understand that once you have acquired power, what you did to get it will be forgiven, forgotten, or both.

The second half of the discussion has Pfeffer fielding questions from the audience which comprised current students and alumni, It is fascinating to hear Pfeffer’s answers.   Some of his non-PC answers are worth their weight in gold e.g.

Can/Should leaders be kind?  Life is not simple – kindness is relative.

Is the generational shift to Gen Z causing a new type of manager to evolve?

You owe companies nothing.  They are your employer not your family.  When placed under pressure companies will not be loyal to you.

Is an MBA a worthwhile investment?

According to Pfeffer 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.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn 20 June 2023.


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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