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Power

Why Some People Have It And Others Don’t

By Jeffrey Pfeffer
15-minute read
Audio available
Power: Why Some People Have It And Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Power (2010) is a realpolitik guide to leading a successful career. It offers unusual insights and advice you wouldn’t normally find in other career literature, with tips and techniques you can start using now to achieve long-term success.

  • Anyone who is launching a career
  • Anyone who wants to get promoted
  • Anyone who works in politics

Jeffrey Pfeffer is a professor at Stanford University, specializing in organizational behavior.

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Power

Why Some People Have It And Others Don’t

By Jeffrey Pfeffer
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Power: Why Some People Have It And Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Synopsis

Power (2010) is a realpolitik guide to leading a successful career. It offers unusual insights and advice you wouldn’t normally find in other career literature, with tips and techniques you can start using now to achieve long-term success.

Key idea 1 of 9

Many of us mistakenly believe that power and success is earned by people who follow the rules.

Every day you work hard at your job: you come in early, find a way to accomplish all your tasks and responsibilities and you stay late into the night, burning the midnight oil.

With all that you do, you’re convinced that a promotion is right around the corner, just as soon as the boss notices all your hard work.

But actually, you could be waiting a long time, because a broad range of studies have shown that there’s not much of a link between job performance and promotions. For example, a study on Fokker — a Dutch aircraft manufacturer — found that white-collar workers were only 12 percent more likely to be promoted when they received a performance rating of “very good,” as opposed to merely “good.”

And this leads us to a common misunderstanding: many people mistakenly assume that positions of power and prestige are earned by people who deserve them. In other words, most of us think that the world is a fair place, a mindset that was first described by psychologist Melvin Lerner as the just-world hypothesis. We think that successful people are the ones who follow the rules.

This viewpoint prevents us from adopting techniques used by people who have achieved their power through nefarious means. When we see someone who got to the top by using a slightly underhanded or ruthless approach — maybe by taking a little too much credit for a team project or by being rude with coworkers — we tell ourselves, “He’ll get what’s coming to him!” Since we take it for granted that their bad behavior will somehow be punished, we don’t bother to learn from their success.

But that mindset is way too limiting, because we’re missing out on a wide range of useful tips and techniques just because we don’t like the people who use them.

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