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Learn More About Jeffrey Pfeffer

Is power the last dirty secret or the secret to success? Both. While power carries some negative connotations, power is a tool we can all learn to harness effectively, helping us achieve our highest potential.

An authority on effective leadership principles and developing influence to get things done, Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer (FEFF-er) has long educated managers on power – how to attain it, wield it and grow it. As the mind behind Stanford Graduate School of Business’ highest-rated “Paths to Power” elective  – described as “the most diverse material at Stanford” – Pfeffer reveals that a key leadership development opportunity for high-level retention within organizations is education in power, political skill and influence.

“What leads people to derail in their careers?” Pfeffer asks. “They derail because they don’t have the political skills to navigate interdependent relationships.” His newest book “7 Rules of Power: Surprising – but True – Advice on How to Get Things Done and Advance Your Career” (Matt Holt, June 2022), which was named an Amazon #1 bestseller in the Job Interviewing category and has found significant popularity in China, positions power as a learnable skill to navigate and influence interpersonal relationships.

Called “transformational” by his students, Pfeffer leads with practicality, demonstrating that high-potential minorities especially benefit from learning that fundamental influence and persuasion skills often outweigh technical ability when it comes to success. Aimed at businesses and individuals alike, “7 Rules of Power” gives managers and leaders life-changing strategies and an honest truth: when your organization is committed to doing diversity, equity and inclusion properly, you must empower your employees with a working knowledge of power skills and structures. Drawing on his years of social science research to provide a manual for increasing your ability to get things done, including improving job performance, Pfeffer’s primary lesson is that we should feel comfortable with power, as it is an omnipresent feature of organizational life.

For decades, Pfeffer has been teaching leaders in every sector how to gain a competitive advantage through their workforce. His case studies on companies including Stanford Healthcare, Southwest Airlines, DaVita Dialysis, and Kimberly-Clark’s Andean region are used worldwide to help companies succeed through his prescient yet simple directive: putting people first increases profits and improves performance.

“Covid has changed everything and nothing,” says Pfeffer, author of “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance ― and What We Can Do About It” (Harper Business, March 2018). “What leaders need to do is precisely what they should have been doing all along. The best organizations were already dealing with issues that Covid brought to the fore, such as access to childcare, economic insecurity, mental health services and physical well-being. What you need to do to respond to Covid is not that different from what you need to do on a daily basis, with or without a pandemic.”

By highlighting organizations with employee-centric engagement and innovation strategies, Pfeffer provides teachable examples to leaders in any industry seeking increased customer loyalty, employee productivity and profits.

As companies prepare to do business in a post-pandemic economy, decision makers have a unique opportunity to rethink old ways and replace them with practices that pay off for everyone – investors, management, employees and the bottom line. Trusted for his straight-talking and clear-eyed delivery style, Pfeffer teaches executives how to achieve extraordinary growth through an evidence-based management approach, helping them adopt mindsets that will serve them and their employees well into the future, regardless of market conditions.


Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He has been a visiting professor at the Harvard Business School, Singapore Management University, London Business School, Copenhagen Business School and, for the past 14 years, IESE in Barcelona. He has presented in over 40 countries and currently serves on the advisory boards of multiple companies, including Collective Health and Quorso. His work has been published in, BNET, The Washington Post, and BBC’s Capital. He is the author or co-author of 16 books including “7 Rules of Power” (June 2022), “The Knowing-Doing Gap,” “Dying for a Paycheck,” “Leadership BS” and “The Human Equation.”

Jeffrey Pfeffer is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Jeffrey Pfeffer was last modified: March 21st, 2024 by Whitney Jennings

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Hard Truths About Leadership: How to Improve Trust and Make Leadership Development More Effective

In Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s eyes, most of the $20 billion leadership industry is “edutainment” that bears no resemblance to the real world or lived experience. We do not suffer for want of blogs, TED Talks, executive development seminars and conferences that promise to impart glossy and exclusive truths of leadership. Yet almost every review of job satisfaction, employee engagement and leadership efficacy shows persistent failures and problems, resulting in shorter tenures for leaders and decreased trust among employees. If you’re wondering what your organization can do to fix these industry-wide leadership crises, Stanford University Professor Jeff Pfeffer’s advice is to look to the evidence. In this talk, Pfeffer focuses on practical suggestions for enhancing both personal and organizational success, with some surprising conclusions. Should leaders really be their most authentic selves? Is there room for autonomy in high-level leadership? How valuable are humility and honesty? Pfeffer’s deliberative approach shows how to cut through the noise of thousands of leadership experts via insights from social science to reduce turnover and unlearn misguided feel-good strategies.

Management in the Time of COVID: What to Do Now

The spread of COVID-19 has accelerated many business shifts that began before the pandemic. But according to Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, what organizations are calling best practices now were also best practices before the crisis. Measures like addressing threats to our collective health, reducing economic insecurity and workplace stress, and recognizing and supporting employees’ familial responsibilities are necessary not just during the COVID-19 crisis, but at all times. In this talk, Pfeffer explains with vivid examples that the current health crisis doesn’t change the actions good leaders and good companies should take; it just makes them more urgent.

Getting Things Done: Building Power and Influence

How do leaders get things done? Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer knows the answers. In this practical examination of power—how to attain it, how to wield it and how to grow it—Pfeffer demonstrates how to overcome resistance, influence behavior, negotiate for salary and job responsibilities, and effectively implement executive strategy. Though power acquisition is inherently uncomfortable to many, Pfeffer shows that power isn’t all Machiavellian tendencies; it is also the foundational ability to succeed in the workplace, even beyond technical competence. Getting outside of our comfort zones into the murky waters of organizational politics is simply another index of job competence that shows we are capable of effecting meaningful change by challenging assumptions. With energy, resilience, ambition, tolerance for conflict and a keen understanding of social science, even the politically unskilled can become powerful.

Competitive Advantage Through People: Building Profits by Putting People First

Despite long-standing evidence that a committed workforce is essential for success, firms continue to attach too little importance to their workers’ well-being, says Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. Instead of focusing mainly on growing through mergers and acquisitions, improving existing technology, or being first to market, companies can achieve success by placing values above strategy, implementation over planning and by striving to get the best out of all employees. In this presentation, Pfeffer demonstrates the importance of flipping the script in the quest for cultural excellence by treating each day with the generosity and understanding of “bring your kid to work day.” To elicit innovation and creativity from their employees, organizations must vigilantly address issues of economic insecurity, workplace stress and mental health. By sharing original frameworks for nurturing a healthier culture, Pfeffer teaches leaders how to resist traditional management pitfalls and stale practices that continue to dominate management theory.

Dying for A Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance

By Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s estimation, the workplace is now the fifth leading cause of death, costing the economy $1.5T each year – statistics that are only compounded by the new impacts of pandemic-related stress and job insecurity. The direct effects of this enduring health emergency include high turnover, presenteeism (emotional and mental absence from work), and barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion. Against the backdrop of a 2% per year rise in suicide rates and pervasive chronic disease, Pfeffer promotes a visionary solution: treat productivity as a human sustainability issue. As demonstrated in this presentation, no trade-off exists between health and economic performance; instead, companies can actually suffer reduced profit by not investing in employee well-being. By grounding his work in observable trends and outcomes, Pfeffer helps leaders bring all types of health (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual) out of the closet through open discussion so we can stop resigning our fates to the perceived costs of doing business.

Overcoming the Knowing-Doing Gap: Turning Knowledge into Action

Meetings, analyses and presentations are meant to produce measurable results, so why do plans often stall before change occurs? Employee engagement, M&A integration and myriad other endeavors frequently suffer from lack of follow-through, despite the best-laid intentions. In this presentation, Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer uncovers important barriers to using and implementing knowledge, showing leaders how to build a culture of action instead of just talk and analysis. He offers examples of companies that have done it right, sharing strategies and tools to help eliminate fear, measure what matters, promote the right leaders and abolish destructive internal competition. With the arsenal of tactics that Pfeffer provides, you too can help your organization close the knowing-doing gap and build a culture of implementation.

Challenge Assumptions with Evidence-Based Management Practices

Many organizations decide what to do based on the past experience of senior leaders, ideologies and beliefs, and casual observations of other companies’ actions. None of these represent effective ways of making decisions, says Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. Knowledge about “what works and why” is too infrequently consulted, which provides an opportunity for information arbitrage in company management that is similar to arbitrage opportunities in the financial markets—except the returns are both larger and less likely to be immediately imitated away. In this talk, Pfeffer shows why companies need to practice evidence-based management and employ a decision making process to uncover hidden assumptions and confront leaders with what they know to be true.

The Human Equation: How to Build a Competitive Advantage Through People

Is it possible to maximize profits through improved employee satisfaction metrics? According to Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, the most straightforward path to either is the path to both. In this presentation, based on his book, “Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People,” Pfeffer gives particular attention to layoffs as a productivity roadblock, toxic management practices that foster unhealthy internal competition, and the misguided urge to curtail independence with more surveillance during COVID-19. In their place, he promotes higher wages as a form of cost reduction and better public policy to protect human sustainability. By encouraging leadership to adopt a growth mindset over an evaluation mindset, Pfeffer shows that management can move beyond corporate policy to genuine care for employees in a way that also yields returns.

Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't

(Harper Business, September 2010)

The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First

(Harvard Business Review Press, January 1998)

New Directions for Organization Theory

(Oxford University Press, June 1997)

Competitive Advantage Through People

(Harvard Business Review Press, March 1996)

Management for the Modern Leader

Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer has a rare ability to see the world as it is while also upholding strong convictions about what it should be. A renowned expert on human resource best practices and how leaders can gain a competitive advantage and acquire influence, Pfeffer’s workshops offer a chiropractic snap for outdated processes and ways of thinking. By employing a no-nonsense approach to leadership and HR, Pfeffer’s evidence-based methods and user-centered job design framework reinvigorate management and increase employee engagement. With intellectual clarity, he shows leaders in your organization how to cultivate continuous self-improvement using a signature style that is both incisive and direct.

“Dr. Pfeffer has written the ultimate book on power that avoids the traps of conventional theories on leadership . . . Beautifully written and full of poignant stories and examples, 7 Rules of Power is my recommended read for anyone looking to radically change the trajectory of their life for good.”

Marshall Goldsmith, Thinkers 50 #1 Executive Coach and New York Times Bestselling Author of “Mojo” and “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

“Like a rousing slap of truth in the face, Pfeffer’s tough-minded, capstone book on power identifies 7 research-based, reality-revealing rules for hierarchical success. Anyone hoping to rise within an organization needs to obtain power and, therefore, needs to read this brilliant book.”

Robert Cialdini, Author of “Influence” and “Pre-Suasion”

“’7 Rules of Power‘ delivers easy-to-digest, practical tips for how you can be more powerful in your own life. Using real-life examples of individuals altering their lives by following his rules, Pfeffer delivers his message with humor and humanity. Pfeffer shows us how often we give away our power and how we can reclaim it.”

Deborah Liu, Author of “Take Back Your Power,” CEO of Ancestry, Board Member of Intuit, Former Vice President at Facebook, and Founder of Women in Product

“Jeff Pfeffer’s latest leadership masterpiece is as brilliantly insightful as it is refreshingly candid and pragmatic, anchored in cutting edge scholarship . . . There is simply no competitor to the highly readable, smart, wide-ranging take on power in ‘7 Rules of Power.’”

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Founder and CEO of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute; Lester Crown Professor at Yale School of Management and Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies

“Dr. Pfeffer’s ‘7 Rules of Power’ is a must read and highly useful for anyone at any stage of their career . . . It still stir your thinking and truly change your perspective.”

Stacy Brown-Philpot, Former CEO, TaskRabbit, Board Member, HP, Inc., and Nordstrom, Forbes 40 Under 40; Former Head of Google’s Online Sales and Operations in India

“The lessons from ‘7 Rules of Power’ will take a lifetime to fully implement. The book provides the lens through which I view the decisions and behaviors of those around me. Most importantly, Pfeffer has taught me that to win the game, changing the rules trumps raw effort.”

Vivas Kumar, CEO and Co-Founder, Mitra Chem, Stanford GSB 2021

“When I started reading ‘7 Rules of Power,’ I had a long list of assumptions about leadership and building influence. With each chapter, more pieces of the power puzzle fell into place. By trying the strategies from the book, I founded a consulting company where I leveraged my 20+ years of professional experience to provide research, innovation, and strategy advice.”

Monika Stezewska-Kruk, CEO Corvus Innovation, Executive Coach and Facilitator, Stanford LEAD Program Graduate

“’7 Rules of Power’ will shoot you to the moon and beyond. This book changed my life . . . I created a unique brand for myself, and now I represent my organization abroad. Usually the only black woman in the room, ‘7 Rules of Power’ gave me an edge.”

Tosin Joel, Stanford LEAD, MIT Sloan Fellow, Director, Hack for Inclusion, Founder, GTBOOL, Project Head, Eni

“Ideas from ‘7 Rules of Power’ helped me design and live my dream career as a digital health expert. This book is a must-have for minorities and people seeking to have social impact, because we tend to shy away from the concept of power. ‘7 Rules’ reframes power and provides tactical, practical tools to actually change the world!”

Marta Milkowska, Stanford GSB 2020; Consultant at Boston Consulting Group, Interim CEO at Reveri Health, Founder of Dtx Future, First Stanford Platform on Digital Therapeutics

“After a lifetime of being the collaborator, team player, and ‘nice’ person, Pfeffer’s 7 Rules of Power taught me that power is not about control or greed–it is about effectiveness . . . The lessons have been transformational in my venture capital career and continue to guide my personal and professional path.”

Laura Chau, Stanford GSB 2018, Partner Canaan Partners, Forbes 30 Under 30, Board Member Ollie Pets, Clutch

“Jeff Pfeffer stands as one of the great management thinkers of our time. Here in this important work, he challenges us to embrace a hippocratic oath of leadership: first do no harm. Diagnostic and prescriptive, passionate and incisive, provocative and inspired – Pfeffer yet again makes a noble contribution.”

Jim Collins, Author “Good to Great”

“Jeff possesses two exceedingly rare traits; he is both a scholar and also a practitioner. He has the uncanny ability to apply the theoretical to the practical; to be a dispassionate observer of human behavior in large and small organizational settings, drawing lessons from what is observed, and then able to reach a variety of audiences, enabling them to grasp, through his teaching and consulting genius, what they need to know to overcome the many inhibitors to efficiency, productivity and stability in diverse settings. What distinguishes Jeff from the many other consultants, speakers, trainers and faculty with whom I have worked over the years, is his authenticity as a teacher. His ability to connect with the people with whom he is working, to bring executives, managers and students, to a point where actually learn and seek to change their ways of knowing and ways of doing, the latter two being the sine qua non of real change in any enterprise.”

Daniel J. Julius, Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Alaska System of Higher Education, Former President, College and University Personnel Association and Academy of Academic Personnel Administrators

“Jeff Pfeffer is the rarest of creatures in the world of business thought leaders: he is substantial and entertaining. There are countless professional business edutainers completely lacking in substance. And there are thousands of business academics who do rigorous research but put audiences to sleep. Jeff is one of a handful that combines deep and rigorous research with a delivery that inspires and holds an audience.”

Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto

“Jeff has a natural, conversational style which combined with his command of the subject and marketing sense result in entertaining and informative presentations.”

Shanda Bahles, Former Managing Partner of El Dorado Ventures

“Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer is simply one of the best Management thinkers and speakers in the world. And our company, HSM, works with only the very best. His ability to put the People context with business results is unmatched. I recommend him to any company.”

José Salibi Neto, Co-Founder & Chief Knowledge Officer, HSM Brasil

“With precision and insight, Pfeffer lays bare the true cost of toxic workplaces, providing a timely wakeup call for any leader who thought a good workplace was simply a ‘nice to have’. As Pfeffer shows, it is a fundamental right in our fast changing society. ‘Dying for a Paycheck’ is an essential book from one of our greatest organizational scholars.”

Professor Lynda Gratton, Co-Author of “The 100-Year Life”

“Pfeffer examines the heretofore uncharted relationship between dysfunctional workplace practices and employee health. ‘Dying for a Paycheck’ is a compelling and important read for all of us seeking to produce a healthy and engaged organization.”

Gary Loveman, Former CEO, Caesars Entertainment and President of Consumer and Health Services, Aetna

“In this urgent and essential book, Pfeffer lays bare the hidden costs of the gig economy, employment instability, and many modern management practices. If you’ve got a job, you must read this book.”

Laszlo Bock, CEO and Co-Founder of Humu & Author of “Work Rules!”

“This is simply the most important business book I have read in a decade. As Pfeffer’s sharp analysis points out, the relationship between people and organizations is flat-out broken. Offering a range of solutions, “Dying for a Paycheck” will start a revolution.”

Tom Rath, Author of “STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0.”

“This profound book on personal well-being and organizational work environments should change how work is done and literally save lives. Using Pfeffer’s insights, employees can take responsibility for their physical and mental health and leaders can create abundant organizations that win.”

Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan