Jeffrey Pfeffer Says Save Generosity Until You Have Power

In his Social Capitalist interview, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford Professor and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, shared perspectives on power, kindness, and generosity that differ dramatically from one the fundamental concepts of myGreenlight – lead with generosity. How do you feel about his comments?

There is this tendency to assume that competency and niceness are, in fact, independent of each other. You can be smart and nice or dumb and mean. All four selves are possible. But empirically, people tend to see niceness and competence, or niceness and smartness, or niceness and brilliance, as being negatively related. Theresa Amabile, who’s now on the Harvard Business School faculty, wrote an article many years ago entitled “Brilliant But Cruel,” in which she found that people who gave negative book reviews were seen as not as nice, not as kind, not as warm, but also seen as smarter.

The best advice I have here comes from my dear friend, the great social psychologist Robert Cialdini, who first of all put me on to this quote from Golda Meir, the now deceased Israeli Prime Minister. She said, “Don’t be so modest, you’re not that good.” So Bob Cialdini’s advice is first, demonstrate competence, intelligence, power and success. And then once you are powerful, successful, and seen as being brilliant and everything else, then when you demonstrate your niceness, you will not erode this idea of your competence and smartness. And secondly, people will be really grateful because they often associate power with bullying behavior, anger, and all these other displays. And so, they’ll really like you and admire you and really respect you.

So first, demonstrate competence – and then you can be nice. But if you demonstrate niceness first, you may never get a chance to demonstrate your competence and your intelligence.

For more of this thought-provoking interview, click here: full transcript.

Comments (3)

  1. This guy seems engrained in the old school, big dick power play. The stuff in Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power”, etc. It’s about manipulating how you are seen so that others perceive you in a certain way. This stuff is fascinating to me because I actually see so much of it starting to change.

    There are surely things you should do in positioning yourself to be accepted as a leader (I work with the women entrepreneurs I coach on this every day), but we are moving into a time where “power” is shifting.

    I am constantly meeting amazing leaders who are breaking this old mold. Look at Sir Richard Branson, whom I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with on his island not once but twice. This guy does not walk into a room oozing or forcing his power on you. He has an aura, a presence, that conveys his confidence. And then he’s a generous guy and a ton of fun too.

    Back to the issue at hand–generosity–I see women actually having to deal with this even moreso. I had to put on a bit more of a power shield when I got started to be taken seriously by the men I worked with in my industry. Then eventually, after some ebb and flow, you find your way to how to be an authentic, powerful YOU.

    • Ms. Brown;
      That is the most ill-informed comment I have read on this site. You clearly have not read his work and are making comments that are unrelated to anything the professor has stated or written.

      On the other hand your comments/ideas sound completely ‘pop’, unsubstantiated and uninteresting.

  2. Pingback: MyGreenlight Blog Roundup « Keith Ferrazzi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>