The Elements of Power: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: June 26th, 2011 by bobmorris

The Elements of Power: Lessons on Leadership and Influence
Terry R. Bacon
AMACOM (2011)

Bacon explains his own model of power and influence: “There are five sources of power that stem from your position and participation in an organization: role power; resource power; information power, network power; and reputation.”

He doesn’t stop there: “Additionally, there are five sources of power that stem from your personal assets: knowledge power; expressiveness power; attraction power; character power; and history power, which derives from your history of familiarity with the people you are trying to lead or influence.” Nor does he stop there: “Finally, there is one meta-source of power, will, which is related to the popular concept of willpower. I use the word ‘will’ as a meta-source of power because it can have substantial magnifying effect on all other sources.” Terry rigorously and eloquently explores each of these power sources in this book.

Of special interest to me is what he has to say in dozens of brief but insightful Profiles in Power of an exceptionally diverse group of people. They include Bill Gates (Pages 26-29), Maya Angelou (34-36), Martin Luther King, Jr. (58-59), Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (94-96), (63-65), Eleanor Roosevelt (119-121), Richard Cheney (186-190), Warren Buffett (206-209), and Jeff Bezos (231-233). All of them are well-known throughout the world. Those of less renown, at least to the general public in the U.S., include Xu Jinglei (80-82), Ali Al-Naimi (146-147), Peter Pronovost (161-163), and Aung San Suu Kyi (201-203). Bacon explains what can be learned from each of them as well as from each of several others who also possess power in one form or another.

Bacon makes very effective use of checklists of key points. For example:

• A summary of some of the majo0r research on physical attractiveness (Pages 92-93)
• The ten most attractive qualities (97-98)
• Ranking of countries in terms of relative role power (148-149)
• Ranking of countries in terms of relative strength of reputation (213)
• “How to Build” each element of power (256-273)

He also concludes all chapters with “Key Concepts” and “Challenges for Readers” sections that collectively serve as a comprehensive self-audit or “gut check.” He correctly asks what many readers will consider to be “tough questions”; in fact, they are easy to ask but very difficult to answer with appropriate precision and (yes) candor. One of the book’s greatest benefits will be gained from what a reader learns by answering the questions with the serious consideration they deserve. The power of such increased self-knowledge is incalculable.

If there is another single source that offers more and better information, insights, and advice about power, I am eager to know about it. Congratulations to Terry Bacon on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

I also highly recommend Bacon’s latest book, Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead, published by AMACOM (2011).

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