Power: why some people have it - and others don't

Emma De Vita reviews Jeffrey Pfeffer's book for managers

Kind charity workers are not like their corporate peers. You're not meant to care about selfish things such as politicking to get ahead at work: obsessing with power is the preserve of private sector managers, isn't it?

Well, those scurrilous corporate types might have something to teach you after all. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a respected US business academic, argues in his new book Power that if you want to do well in your career, then you have to care about the power dynamics at work.

The way to get ahead is by developing your "power skills". First, it's not enough to just sit back and do a good job; you need to court power and develop qualities that bring influence, such as ambition, energy, focus, self-knowledge, confidence, empathy and an ability to tolerate conflict.

Once you've done this, you have to deploy them by going for the jobs that wield the most power within an organisation. Do the fundraisers have the biggest say in your charity? Then try to get a job with them. Lastly, don't worry too much about being likeable - once you've gained power, you'll start to notice how many people want to become your friend. Remember, work isn't a popularity contest.

- Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today.

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