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The paths to power: How to grow your influence and advance your career | Jeffrey Pfeffer (author of 7 Rules of Power, professor at Stanford GSB)

The paths to power: How to grow your influence and advance your career | Jeffrey Pfeffer (author of 7 Rules of Power, professor at Stanford GSB)


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Jeffrey Pfeffer teaches the single most popular (and somewhat controversial) class at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business: The Paths to Power. He’s also the author of 16 books, including 7 Rules of Power: Surprising—But True—Advice on How to Get Things Done and Advance Your Career. He has taught at Harvard, the London Business School, and IESE and has written for publications like Fortune and the Washington Post. Recognized by the Academy of Management and listed in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, Jeffrey also serves on several corporate and nonprofit boards, bringing his expertise to global audiences through seminars and executive education. In our conversation, we discuss:

  • Jeffrey’s seven rules of power

  • How individuals can acquire and use power in business

  • Networking, and how to do it effectively

  • How to build a non-cringe personal brand

  • How to increase your influence to amplify your impact

  • Examples and stories of people building power

  • Tradeoffs and challenges that come with power

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.

Some takeaways:

  1. The 7 rules of power

    1. Get out of your own way.

    2. Break the rules.

    3. Show up in powerful fashion.

    4. Create a powerful brand.

    5. Network relentlessly.

    6. Use your power.

    7. Understand that once you have acquired power, what you did to get it will be forgiven, forgotten, or both.

  2. People often feel uncomfortable discussing or learning about power because it challenges their ideals of how the world should be. Power itself is neither inherently good nor bad; it’s how it’s used that matters. Just like a knife can be used by a surgeon to save lives or by a mugger to harm others, power can be wielded for positive or negative purposes.

  3. If you want to practice power, walk before you run. Don’t start with things that feel entirely out of character or too difficult. Just get a little out of your comfort zone and then expand your practice over time. For example, you could start by simply maintaining a little more eye contact.

  4. The first principle of networking is generosity. Good networkers ask: “What can I do for you?,” “How can I be helpful?,” “Who can I introduce you to?” When you network through generosity, it shouldn’t feel cringey.

  5. Skills like presenting, networking, and commanding a room are learned, not innate, and can be developed through practice and training. Avoid reading from notes, maintain eye contact, keep interactions brief, and use open body posture to appear confident and in control. Embrace the principle of gradual progression, pushing yourself just beyond your comfort zone without overwhelming yourself. Aim for a 15% stretch beyond what feels familiar but not unreachable.

Where to find Jeffrey Pfeffer:

• X: https://x.com/JeffreyPfeffer

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffrey-pfeffer-57a01b6/

• Website: https://jeffreypfeffer.com/

• Podcast: https://jeffreypfeffer.com/pfeffer-on-power/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Jeffrey’s background 

(02:54) Understanding discomfort with power

(04:56) Power skills for underrepresented groups

(07:51) The popularity and challenges of Jeffrey’s class at Stanford

(12:21) The seven rules of power

(13:03) Success stories from his course

(15:43) Building a personal brand

(21:11) Getting out of your own way

(26:04) Breaking the rules to gain power

(30:34) Networking relentlessly

(40:10) Why Jeffrey says to “pursue weak ties”

(42:00) Using your power to build more power

(44:34) The importance of appearance and body language

(47:15) Mastering the art of presentation

(55:12) Examples of homework assignments that Jeffrey gives students 

(59:11) People will forget how you acquired power

(01:03:58) More good people need to have power

(01:10:49) The price of power and autonomy

(01:17:13) A homework assignment for you


• Gerald Ferris on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gerald-r-ferris-5816b1b5/

• Political Skill at Work: https://tarjomefa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/4173-engilish.pdf

• Laura Esserman, MD: https://cancer.ucsf.edu/people/esserman.laura

• Taylor Swift’s website: https://www.taylorswift.com/

• Matthew 7: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207&version=NIV

• Mother Teresa quote: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/2887-if-you-judge-people-you-have-no-time-to-love

• Paths to Power course description: https://jeffreypfeffer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Pfeffer-OB377-Course-Outline-2018.pdf

7 Rules of Power: https://jeffreypfeffer.com/books/7-rules-of-power/

The Knowing-Doing Gap: https://jeffreypfeffer.com/books/the-knowing-doing-gap/

• Derek Kan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/derekkan/

• Mitt Romney on X: https://x.com/mittromney

• Elaine Chao’s website: https://www.elainechao.com/

• Tony Hsieh: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hsieh

• Zappos: https://www.zappos.com/

• How I Did It: Zappos’s CEO on Going to Extremes for Customers: https://hbr.org/2010/07/how-i-did-it-zapposs-ceo-on-going-to-extremes-for-customers

• McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/

• Bain & Company: https://www.bain.com/

• BCG: https://www.bcg.com/

• Keith Ferrazzi’s website: https://www.keithferrazzi.com/

• Deloitte: https://www2.deloitte.com/

• Tristan Walker: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tristanwalker/

• Foursquare: https://foursquare.com/

• Laura Chau on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-chau/

• Canaan Partners: https://www.canaan.com/

• Andreessen Horowitz: https://a16z.com/

• Sequoia Capital: https://www.sequoiacap.com/

• Greylock: https://greylock.com/

The Women Who Venture (WoVen) Podcast: https://www.canaan.com/woven/podcasts

• Imposter syndrome: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/imposter-syndrome

• Gary Loveman and Harrah’s Entertainment: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/gary-loveman-harrahs-entertainment

• “If you need help, just ask”: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/publications/if-you-need-help-just-ask-underestimating-compliance-direct-requests

• Life story of Kathleen Frances Fowler: https://www.forevermissed.com/kathleenfowler/lifestory

• Jason Calacanis on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasoncalacanis/

• Jason Calacanis: A Case Study in Creating Resources: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/case-studies/jason-calacanis-case-study-creating-resources

You’re Invited: The Art and Science of Connection, Trust, and Belonging: https://www.amazon.com/Youre-Invited-Science-Cultivating-Influence/dp/0063030977

• View from the Top: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/experience/learning/guest-speakers/view-top

• Omid Kordestani on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/omid-kordestani-46515151/

• Netscape: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape

•  Esther Wojcicki on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/estherwojcicki/

• Leanne Williams: https://med.stanford.edu/profiles/leanne-williams

Precision Psychiatry: Using Neuroscience Insights to Inform Personally Tailored, Measurement-Based Care: https://www.amazon.com/Precision-Psychiatry-Neuroscience-Personally-Measurement-Based/dp/1615371583

• Mark Granovetter on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-granovetter-8161704/

• The Strength of Weak Ties: https://snap.stanford.edu/class/cs224w-readings/granovetter73weakties.pdf

Getting a Jobhttps://www.amazon.com/Getting-Job-Study-Contacts-Careers/dp/0226305813

Acting with Power: https://www.amazon.com/Acting-Power-More-Powerful-Believe/dp/110190397X

• Articles by Herminia Ibarra: https://herminiaibarra.com/articles/

Kingdom of the Planet of the Ape: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11389872/

• Jim Collins’s website: https://www.jimcollins.com/

• Dana Carney on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danarosecarney/

• Baba Shiv: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/faculty/baba-shiv

• Tony Hayward: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hayward

• Lloyd Blankfein: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Blankfein

• Regis McKenna: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regis_McKenna

• Jack Valenti: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Valenti

• Salman Rushdie quote: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/434175220328596286/

• How to build deeper, more robust relationships | Carole Robin (Stanford GSB professor, “Touchy Feely”): https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/build-robust-relationships-carole-robin

• Carole Robin’s 15% rule: https://pen-name.notion.site/Carole-Robin-on-Lenny-s-Podcast-dc7159208e4242428f4b11ebc92285eb

• Karlie Kloss on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karliekloss

• Lindsey Graham’s website: https://www.lindseygraham.com/

• Was Microsoft’s Empire Built on Stolen Code? We May Never Know: https://www.wired.com/2012/08/ms-dos-examined-for-thef/

• Who’s who of Jeffrey Epstein’s powerful friends, associates and possible co-conspirators: https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/12/us/jeffrey-epstein-associates-possible-accomplices/index.html

• Why Did Martha Stewart Go to Prison? A Look Back at Her 2004 Fraud Case: https://people.com/martha-stewart-fraud-case-prison-sentence-look-back-8550277

• Dianne Feinstein: https://www.congress.gov/member/dianne-feinstein/F000062

• Richard Blum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_C._Blum

• Athena Care Network: https://www.athenacarenetwork.org

• James G. March: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._March

• Satya Nadella on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/satyanadella/

• Trump Organization fined $1.6 million for tax fraud: https://apnews.com/article/politics-legal-proceedings-new-york-city-donald-trump-manhattan-e2f1d01525dafb64be8738c8b4f32085

• Rudy Giuliani: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Giuliani

• Harvard president resigns amid claims of plagiarism and antisemitism backlash: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2024/jan/02/harvard-president-claudine-gay-resigns

• Stanford president resigns after fallout from falsified data in his research: https://www.npr.org/2023/07/19/1188828810/stanford-university-president-resigns

• Rudy Crew: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Crew

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.