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Power & the Powerful

Date: 09-25-10
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jeffrey Pfeffer

Ian Punnett was joined by author and professor Jeffrey Pfeffer for a discussion on power, which he defined simply as "the ability to get your way." According to Pfeffer, the powerful pay a substantial price for their power, often giving up autonomy over their own lives and becoming the subject of public scrutiny. Among the world's most powerful, Pfeffer identified investor Warren Buffett, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin -- all billionaires. Money correlates with power, he added. American presidents did not fare so well in Pfeffer's assessment, as very few have successfully influenced the direction of the country, he noted.

Many people rise to powerful positions through deception, Pfeffer continued, pointing out the ubiquitous practice of embellishing one's resume to get a job. As an example, he cited the case of Notre Dame football coach George O'Leary, who was found to have lied about his academic and athletic background.Regardless of how they got there, the longer a person stays in power the harder it is to unseat them, Pfeffer explained. The powerful tend to live longer as well, as (unlike most people) they usually have a great deal of control over their high level positions, he said. Pfeffer also commented on CEO pay, the addictive nature of power, and characteristics shared by powerful people.

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