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Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt: Power

Peter Ueberroth, Time magazine's man of the year for his success running the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and former commissioner of major-league baseball, has a favorite maxim: Authority is 20 percent given, 80 percent taken. Words to live by.

If you are going to take power, you need to project confidence....You need to project assurance even if—or maybe particularly if—you aren't sure what you're doing. Andy Grove, a cofounder and former CEO and chairman of the semiconductor company Intel, has appropriate modesty about his (or anyone's) ability to forecast the technological future. In reply to a question at a Silicon Valley forum about how to lead if you aren't sure where you or your company is going, Grove replied:

"Well, part of it is self-discipline and part of it is deception. And the deception becomes reality. Deception in the sense that you pump yourself up and put a better face on things than you start off feeling. But after a while, if you act confident, you become more confident. So the deception becomes less of a deception."

Grove understood the importance of being able to put on a show. As Harriet Rubin noted, "Grove insisted that his brilliant but shy managers attend a seminar they called 'wolf school.' Attendees learned how to lean into a superior's face and shout out an idea or proposal...If they didn't feel fierce, they had to pretend."

Andy Grove understood three important principles about acting with power. First, after a while, what started out being an act becomes less so. Over time, you will become more like you are acting—self-assured, confident, and more strongly convinced of the truth of what you are saying. Attitudes follow behavior, as much research attests.

Second, the emotions you express, such as confidence or happiness, influence those around you—emotions are contagious. Walk down an airport corridor and smile, and watch people smile back; change your facial expression to a frown, and you will be met with frowns. A study of emotional contagion and its use in marketing found that when a person smiled, another individual exposed to the smile would be happier and also have a positive attitude toward a product—emotions not only jumped from person to person, but when someone was in a good mood because she had been exposed to someone who was happy, that mood spilled over to other things like items to be purchased.

Third, emotions and behaviors become self-reinforcing: if you smile and then others smile, you are more likely to feel happy and smile. This reflexive quality in human interaction means that a mood or feeling, once generated, is likely to be quite stable. Grove may have had to act confident and knowledgeable at first, but as others "caught" that feeling, it would be reflected back, making Grove himself more confident.

Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, where he has taught since 1979. He is the author or co-author of 13 books, including Power: Why Some People Have It—and Others Don't. His latest book, Leadership B.S: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time will be published in September, 2015 by HarperCollins.

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