HENRY KISSINGER was guilty of understatement when he said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. In fact, power is the ultimate life-improver tout court. Powerful people not only have more friends than the rest of us. They also enjoy better health. Numerous studies demonstrate that low status is more strongly associated with heart disease than physical hazards like obesity and high blood pressure.


The benefits of power have grown dramatically in recent years. CEOs and other C-suite types have seen their salaries surge at a time when the median wage has either stagnated (in the United States) or grown slowly (in Europe). Politicians have learned how to monetise their pull. The Clintons earned $109m in the eight years after they left the White House. Tony Blair has turned himself into a wealthy man in the three years since his retirement from national politics.


But the greasy pole is getting harder to climb and, once you’ve climbed it, harder to cling on to. Companies have introduced more complicated structures—removing layers, replacing hierarchies with teams and dispersing functions around the world. They have also made life harder for chief executives. In the 1990s it was not unusual to find CEOs who had been in the job for ten or 15 years. Over the past decade the average tenure of departing CEOs around the world has dropped from 8.1 years to 6.3 years. In the 1990s it was the norm for CEOs to double dip as chairmen (which allowed them to report to themselves). In 2009 less than 12% of incoming CEOs were also given the job of chairman.


So how do you get your hands on power? And how do you keep hold of it once you’ve got it? Management gurus are surprisingly disappointing on this subject given its overwhelming importance to their clients. Academics and consultants are happier focusing on subjects such as return on investment. Both have an interest in presenting business as a rational enterprise that can be reduced to rules. This leaves the analysis of power to retired businesspeople like Jack Welch (who strive to present themselves as business geniuses rather than Machiavellis) and practising snake-oil salesmen (who tell you that all you need to do is “unleash the power within” and the CEO’s job will be yours).

那么,你如何获得权力?一旦得手又该如何牢牢把握住呢?令人失望的是,管理学大师们很少触及这一问题,鉴于它对众管理人员的至关重要性,这一点也实在出人意料,而学者、顾问们更乐于关注投资的收益率这种话题。双方都热衷于将做生意作为一种理性的、能总结出规则的事业来介绍,如此一来,对“权力”的分析研究就留给了杰克•韦尔奇(Jack Welch)这样的退休企业家(他们竭力证明自己是商业天才而不是马基雅维利)和一些老江湖的骗子推销商们(他们告诉你只要释放内在的潜能,CEO的位置就是你的)。

Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford Business School is an exception to this rule. He has been teaching a popular course on “paths to power” for years. Now he has condensed many of his findings into a book that is part academic analysis and part how-to guide, “Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don’t”.

不过,斯坦福大学商学院的杰弗瑞•菲佛(Jeffrey Pfeffer)是个例外。这些年来,他一直在教的一门课很受欢迎,叫“通向权力之路”。如今,他将自己的许多发现精简归纳,写成一本半学术半指南型的书:“权力——为何有人拥有他人无”。

Mr Pfeffer starts by rubbishing the notion that the world is just—that the best way to win power is to be good at your job. The relationship between rewards and competence is loose at best. Bob Nardelli was a disastrous CEO of Home Depot. But he was paid nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to leave and quickly moved to the top slot at Chrysler, which then went bankrupt. Mr Pfeffer points out that CEOs who presided over three years of poor earnings and led their firms into bankruptcy only faced a 50% chance of losing their jobs (and perfectly successful senior managers are routinely cleaned out when new CEOs take over). There are plenty of things that matter more than competence, such as the ability to project drive and self-confidence.

菲佛先生先开篇说道,“世界是公平的”这种观念完全是胡说八道——赢得权力的最佳方法就是要善于工作,能力和回报之间没什么必然的关系。“家得宝”公司(Home Depot)CEO鲍勃•纳德利(Bob Nardelli)在任期间公司损失惨重,但他却得到近2.5亿美元的离职金并很快执掌克莱斯勒,后来克莱斯勒宣布破产。菲佛先生指出,经营公司连续三年以上业绩不佳并导致公司破产的CEO只有一半的可能会丢掉饭碗(而经营非常成功的高级经理通常在新的CEO接任时被扫地出门)。比工作能力更重要的事情有很多,比如驱动项目的能力还有自信心等等。

The best way to increase your chances of reaching the top is to choose the right department to join. The most powerful departments are the ones that have produced the current big-wigs (R&D in Germany, finance in America), and the ones that pay the most. But the trick is to find the department that is on the rise. Robert McNamara and his fellow whizz kids flourished in post-war America because they realised that power was shifting to finance. Zia Yusuf zoomed up the ranks of SAP, a German software company, because he offered something that the engineering-dominated company lacked: expertise in corporate strategy. Men with pay-TV backgrounds have risen in media companies like News Corporation and Time Warner—rightly so, given the importance of cable and satellite TV to those businesses.

想增加你成为领导的机会,最好的方法就是要选对部门。最强大的部门已经培养出当今世界的大人物(比如德国的研发、美国的金融),付的薪水也最多。但诀窍在于找到一个处于上升期的部门。罗伯特•麦克纳马拉(Robert McNamara)和与他同时代的奇才们之所以能在战后美国叱咤风云,是因为他们意识到权力的核心转向了金融领域;Zia Yusuf的到来使德国软件公司SAP的世界排名直线上升,是因为他提供了这个以工程开发为主导的公司所缺乏的东西:企业战略的专门知识。具有收费电视专业背景的人才在新闻集团和时代华纳这样的媒体公司大展身手——也难怪如此,毕竟有线电视和卫星转播电视对它们十分重要。

Tips for the top

Once you have chosen the right department three things matter more than anything else. The first is the ability to “manage upwards”. This means turning yourself into a supplicant: Barack Obama asked about a third of his fellow senators for help when he first arrived in the institution. It also means mastering the art of flattery: Jennifer Chatman, of the University of California, Berkeley, conducted experiments in which she tried to find a point at which flattery became ineffective. It turned out there wasn’t one. The second is the ability to network. One of the quickest ways to the top is to turn yourself into a “node” by starting an organisation or forging a link between separate parts of a company. The third, more admirable, quality is loyalty: Booz Allen, a consultancy, calculates that four out of every five CEO appointments go to insiders. Those insiders last almost two years longer in their jobs than outsiders.

一旦你选对了部门,接下来有三件事最要紧。第一件,是“向上管理”的能力,一层意思是说你要将自己放在一个“有求于人”的位置上:巴拉克•奥巴马初到参议院时请求大约三分之一的参议员帮他的忙;另一层意思是你还要掌握阿谀奉承的艺术:加州大学伯克利分校的詹妮弗•查特曼教授(Jennifer Chatman)进行了一系列实验,试图找到一次“恭维话”不起作用的情况,结果发现一次都没有。第二件,是建立人际关系网的能力。爬到领导的位置最快的方式就是要建起一个联盟组织,或者在公司分散的部门间建立联系网,并让你自己成为一个节点。第三件,也是更令人敬佩的一个品质,那就是忠诚:据咨询公司博思艾伦(Booz Allen)估计,五个CEO里有四个是公司内部提拔的,他们比外来(从外公司来的)的CEO在此职位上能够多待两年。

And what happens if all this loyalty and networking pays off? How do you keep power once you win it? The old saw about power corrupting has been laboriously confirmed by academic studies of everything from risk-taking to cookie-eating (powerful people are more likely to eat with their mouths open and to scatter crumbs over their faces). The key to keeping power is to understand its corrupting effects. Powerful people need to cultivate a combination of paranoia and humility—paranoia about how much other people want them out and humility about their own replaceability. They also need to know when to quit. People who do not know when to leave an organisation frequently crash and burn. People who jump before they are pushed have a good chance of leaping to yet another aphrodisiacal throne.