- Hierarchies are inevitable, so learn the rules of the game.
- Qualities that create power—and why intelligence is not one of them.
- How we limit ourselves when it comes to acquiring power.
Getting a job, having control over your work, and holding on to a job all require more than simply excelling at what you do. They require an understanding of power. According to Professor Pfeffer, individual power comes from political skill, which is characterized by social astuteness, networking ability, interpersonal influence, and “apparent” sincerity. And power comes from knowing the rules of the game, recognizing the power of others, and—most of all—being willing and able to play the game.
We can be our own worst impediments to acquiring power if we’re unwilling to make the tradeoffs required, such as being liked versus getting things done, or doing interesting work versus tackling what is most useful for our advancement. Women can face the tradeoff of doing what needs to be done to gain power at the expense being considered feminine. Finally, we can develop the individual qualities that create power, including focus, self-knowledge, confidence, empathy, and the capacity to tolerate. Seek out an objective personal assessment, suggests Dr. Pfeffer, and then work to improve in areas where you are weak.
Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the author of 14 books, including his most recent, Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don't. Dr. Pfeffer received his BS and MS degrees from Carnegie-Mellon University and his PhD from Stanford.