Saturday, February 19, 2011


Many people say they want power, yet when it comes down to it, they shy away from the hard things that need to be done. This book comes across as a modern version of The Prince providing blunt plans to rise up the corporate ranks and achieve power. Some people may have a head start in having the skills needed to obtain power. However, anyone can develop them with sufficient effort.

Most people are not willing to put forth the effort. It is easier to make excuses and retreat in a hole than to make progress and actually learn from past mistakes. A positive attitude and flattery can be beneficial in winning influence. It is also important to focus effort where it is needed most. Performance can help, but is really only a small part of what is needed. Following the "book" advice of those successfully in power may not be useful - they are likely to gloss over the "dirty" tasks that had to be done to rise to power, while remembering.

This book does not present "easy" or "comfortable" paths to power. Instead it stresses hard work and learning from mistakes. Interpersonal relationships are also of key importance. Asking for things can provide a great benefit - and people tend to be more willing to give than we are to ask. You also have to be noticed to have any hope at achieving power. There are many ways to do this, including breaking the rules and taking on small but critical tasks.

While most of the book concerns the steps needed to obtain power, the end adds chapters on power's pitfalls and how to maintain power. Power can result in some loss of schedule autonomy and privacy. It can also require a great deal of effort and become like a drug (with associated withdrawal symptoms.) Once in power, many people will be after your position of power. You must be constantly vigilant to possible threats as well as diligent to uncover the truth. (Many people will only say what they think the person in power wants to hear.)

The roll of organizational politics and the quest for power is even viewed as a benefit within organizations. Without these internal struggles, organizations would grow stale and not be as receptive to new ideas. People need to take the motivation to obtain power to be a positive influence, rather than whine and resign themselves to a position of little influence. While obtaining power does require effort, there are benefits (even health benefits) in requiring organizational power, whether in corporations or other areas.

The book provides plenty of examples of how people in various situations positively (or negatively) carried out the quest and manifestation of power. The biggest fault in these was the lack of completeness. The author provided brief snippets, but did not tell complete stories, leading me to Google more details on people such as Jeffery Sonnenfield. Some of the best anecdotes were the contrasting ones - such as the comparison of a Oliver North and a Stanford president testifying before congress. Even though both were appearing due to negative events, North parlayed his self-assured appearance on to a future career. The Stanford president's academic answers lead to his downfall.

The message of this book can be summed up with the Nike slogan "Just Do It". The power is there for those who want it. If they take the effort and don't let the power go to their head, they can have a positive impact on themselves and society.

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