Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why Performance Won’t Get You Promoted

power why some people have it

If you’re going to play the game you should at least educate yourself on the unwritten rules. In an NPR interview (audio below), Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer highlights why performance won’t get you promoted and why power is corrupting.

Here are my notes on the audio interview:
1. performance is elusive and thus can be shaped and managed;
2. you can do your job too well;
3. the world doesn’t work the way you want it to – the way to change it is to go out and make something happen;
4. power corrupts — when you attain power you don’t think you have to follow the rules anymore;
5. when you’re in a position of power everyone is trying to curry your favor and you end up surrounded by sycophants;
6. power can be converted into money;
7. power gives you control over your work (time and pace);
8. you need power to get things done;
9. the more powerful you are the less people will be willing to forgive you;
10. influence is power in use and
11. you can have power or autonomy but not both.

Some of you might be sceptical of Pfeffer’s tactics; but he points out, that if the ends don’t justify the means then what does?

My favorite part of the interview was the quote from a newsman saying: if you don’t like today’s news, go out and make some of your own.

According to Pfeffer’s book Power: Why Some People Have It And Others Don’t, there are seven personal qualities that help to build power: ambition, energy, focus, self-knowledge, confidence, empathy with others, and capacity to tolerate conflict. Intelligence and high performance didn’t make the cut.

The book recommends a few simple steps you can take to increase your power:
1. be visible;
2. emphasize the aspects you’re good at;
3. make those in power feel good about themselves;
4. if you must point out a mistake by someone in power, blame the situation or others; and
5. shower those above with flattery.

If you’re really into power read The Prince