Book Review: Power and Influence, by John P. Kotter

This book was recommended to me by my dad, and was the first book I downloaded for myself on my Kindle.

Originally published in 1985, its prescriptive remedies for office politics are still must-haves in today’s workplace. The book is divided into sections geared at three levels of employees: junior/entry level, managers/executives, and those nearing retirement. It’s full of practical and insightful advice on how to navigate the workplace despite the “bureaucracy, parochial politics, and destructive power struggles” that consist in most firms.

Takeaways ~

  • Most employees can be divided into two categories: the naive, who believe that “good performance speaks for itself”; and the cynical, who believe no matter who well they do nothing great will come back to them due to office politics.
  • One must manage all relevant relationships – subordinates, peers, bosses, those outside one’s chain of command, employees in interdependent departments.
  • Bosses can be divided into two groups: “listeners” and “readers”. Some bosses prefer reports, others prefer meeting in person. (Peter Drucker’s theory)

Useful Quotes ~

On taking the higher road past naivete and/or cynicism:

Beyond the yellow brick road of naivete and the muggers lane of cynicism, there is a narrow path, poorly lit, hard to find, and even harder to stay on once found. People who have the skill and the perseverance to take that path serve us in countless ways. We need more of these people. Many more.

On managing relationships:

Effective leadership in a job that includes a complicated set of lateral relationships requires, first, a keen sense of where those relationships are.

…managing the relationship with the boss is a necessary and legitimate part of a job in a modern organization, especially in a difficult leadership job.

On psychology and behavior patterns:

In terms of self-awareness, nothing is more important for a subordinate than to know his or her temperamental reaction to a position of dependence on an authority figure.

  • “Counterdependent behavior” = resisting authority, urge to rebel
  • “Overdependent behavior” = yes-men

Further Reading ~

  • I will definitely re-read this book several times as my career-stage shifts or I find myself needing a reminder of how to effectively cope with office politics
  • Harvard Business School’s “10 Must-Read Papers on Managing Yourself”