Most “how to get power at work” articles are buzzword hell

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Among the concepts in the world that most make me want to put a rifle to my dick and pull the trigger are “People tweeting headlines that promise some kind of amazing return in business or life” (such as “Six Ways To Reinvent Yourself Into A Millionaire”) and “People assuming formal power in an organization is the same thing as leadership.”

You can be a leader without formal power, and you can have formal power and be a total train wreck as a leader. (Both situations happen often.) And if you really think one tweet that you click on is going to make you a millionaire, well, don’t open any e-mails from Nigerian princes, OK?

All that said, here’s a post from Stanford’s Business School — and it includes this video:

There are a lot of buzzwords in this video, and a lot of generic advice too — stuff like “Be friends with secretaries, because they have access to power!” (I feel like that’s common sense) — but in general, it offers a good umbrella framework for how to chase the idea of power wherever you work.

I’m not really an expert on this because many days I feel like no one I work with who has power actually knows my name, but here’s what I’d say about this:

  • Relationships are everything. Develop those.
  • People gravitate towards those who are likable. Those people get projects, get opportunities, etc. So, be likable.
  • (I bet if you found 100 people who miss all their deliverables but are likable and then found 100 people who hit all their deliverables but are assholes, the former group would ultimately be seen as going further in the workplace.)
  • Be curious.
  • Realize leadership is all about empathy, so be empathetic to the needs of others from whatever your position in the org is.
  • Play to your strengths.
  • And fuck man, fake it till you make it.

BTW, I’ve quoted the above professor on “companies and moral norms” before too.

But please remember: having “power” at work has nothing to do with your role. It has to do with the perception of others about you, honestly. So if you want to think of it in terms of “Gaining Influence” or “Getting People To Listen To You,” so be it. But at the end of the day, those are all just tips and tricks. Just be nice, be yourself, try to chase a little self-awareness, and you can get there.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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