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The Ultimate Guide to Power and Influence: Everything You Need to Know by Robert L. Dilenschneider

The thought of someone who seeks power and influence brings forth images of one who is greedy, immodest, inflexible and insincere. The Ultimate Guide to Power and Influence by Robert L. Dilenschneider works against this stereotype as the author describes how to position yourself to gain power and influence, what to do with it when you finally get it, and how to hang on to it. The emphasis is always on maintaining your moral compass, doing the right thing, and committing to helping others. If you can grasp the basics - stating a clear objective, making it exciting enough to keep you going, moving the people you know (and even those you don’t know) along with society at large, and finding the drive to see it through - this book will fill in the details. Although the introduction felt like a random stroll through proof that things move rapidly, the importance of being a good person and the author’s own credentials, the chapters that follow are well organized. An appropriate subtitle might be “How to be a better person while still being successful.”

The first chapter emphasizes the importance of understanding yourself before beginning this journey, and this concept is echoed throughout the book. There are three versions of yourself to deal with – how you see yourself, how you really are, and how others see you. This forms the foundation for deciding who you want to be, and why you want influence. A clear idea of your moral compass is essential at this point – it should never change, regardless of the situations that come your way. Anyone who is out only for themselves will eventually end up alone. An idea that stood out for me – I know who my adversaries are, I understand their arguments, and I know how to deal with them. Mr. Dilenschneider illustrates the importance of authenticity with a story about Jack Welch of General Electric. Such stories, many of which are first-hand accounts, are the substance of the book.

The next three chapters deal with various aspects of networking – something we have all heard much about – but here the author’s examples begin to show their value. The story of how Hearst Corp. was able to purchase a 20% share in ESPN (a $167M investment now worth ~ $6B) because of a personal relationship between the CEO’s makes the point perfectly. Relationships are as important as competence for your career, and the popular concept of the “self-made person” is shown to be a myth. There is power in helping others not just for personal gain, but for creating a better community as well. The author illustrates his observations on networking with multiple examples involving people he has personally known or worked with.

The author begins the following chapter with the story of an up-and-coming Levi’s executive who was denied a promotion to CEO because her tweets on social media were deemed problematic for the company. While social media is a necessary part of today’s business world, it can also be dangerous, with each platform having its own unique culture along with a reputation that changes over time. Elon Musk recently purchased Twitter (now known as “X”), fired half the employees, instituted a charge for “verified” accounts, and re-instated the previously banished Donald Trump. Just following social media can be an effective way of spotting cultural and social trends.

Communication is essential to achieving power and influence, and stories based on personal experience are much better remembered than mere facts and figures – a point exemplified by Mr. Dilenschneider throughout the book. What you say matters little – it’s what people hear that counts. To that end, a good communicator must be open, passionate, and read the room in order to connect. The goal is always to persuade, not pontificate.

Next, the author turns to the subject of those inevitable mistakes that we all make. The story of legendary architect I.M. Pei’s high-profile failure provides an opportunity for several key teaching points. Taking calculated risks, which I.M. Pei was noted for, is not something to be feared, but you must be ready to own the results if they don’t work out. This quote from football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant sums it up – “When you make a mistake there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.”

As for making career moves, Michelle Obama is noted for saying “Sometimes the heart knows before the head.” One of the best possible safety nets for bold career changes is a good network (covered previously). Tough decisions are always easier if you truly know yourself - not an easy thing - also described in an earlier chapter.

Subsequent chapters cover protecting your reputation, becoming a memorable manager, handling crises, predicting trends in order to keep power, and leading effectively in a changing workplace.

As for the subject of crisis management, Johnson and Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol catastrophe remains the gold standard. In 1982, 7 people died after taking Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide. J&J recalled 31 million bottles, replaced consumer purchases with safer tablets, and ultimately developed tamper-proof packaging which today is the industry standard. Even though they didn’t cause the problem, they owned the problem, responded quickly and decisively while putting their customers safety first, and ultimately came out ahead. Other counterexamples (e.g., the Volkswagen emissions fraud debacle) didn’t turn out as well.

The author concludes with some essential advice for those who do achieve power and influence. One theme here is sharing – your knowledge, time, influence and money – to inspire and encourage those around you. These connections are important as you can never have all the good ideas yourself. True power players are more concerned with ideas and impact.

The strength of the book lies in the many first-hand examples the author recounts through stories of well-known people he has personally worked with. The message is quite simple, but the stories are entertaining and illuminating. The book is an easy read, packed full of inspiring stories that underpin the main points. Author Robert Dilenschneider convincingly shows that it is possible to be successful while remaining a good person.

Author Profile - Paul W. Smith - leader, educator, technologist, writer - has a lifelong interest in the countless ways that technology changes the course of our journey through life. In addition to being a regular contributor to NetworkDataPedia, he maintains the website Technology for the Journey and occasionally writes for Blogcritics. Paul has 50 years of experience in research and advanced development for companies ranging from small startups to industry leaders. His other passion is teaching - he is a former Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Paul holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.




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