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The Power of Options
Always give yourself four ways to win.

108 Harvard Business Review
January–February 2023


The Power of Options AUTHORS


David Noble
Founder, View Advisors

Carol Kauffman
Founder, Institute

of Coaching

Harvard Business Review
January–February 2023  109


Facing a crisis or an
opportunity, leaders often
fall back on the leader-
ship style that has worked
for them in the past. But
to be effective, they need
to rise above their default
reactions and generate
more options for how to
respond in real time.

In this article two
leadership coaches
offer an approach, called
the “four stances,” to
help leaders generate
options for interpersonal

Leaders should identify
which stance is their
default, make a plan for
using alternative ones in
various situations, and
be ready to pivot if an
approach is not working.

they will respond to a crisis or a massive new opportunity,
and they often will tell you they already know what to do.
This is surprising because most crises and opportunities

have unexpected elements. A high-powered executive whom we coach once told us, “In any
crisis, I come out of the gate fast and take action. I go over, under, or through any wall in my
way. With my people, I lead from the front.” To be sure, that approach has the benefit of deci-
siveness, but it offers a narrow path, especially in high-stakes situations. What happens when
such leaders run into obstacles they can’t muscle their way through?

Another leader we coached had a different approach. He was an incredible delegator
with legendary calm. This worked well until a crisis surfaced and his team started feeling
lost and overwhelmed. He stayed steady, confident in his default style, telling people,
“Don’t worry, I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.” They didn’t figure it out, team
members began fighting with one another, and within months the company lost its market-
leading position.



110 Harvard Business Review
January–February 2023

In our work coaching and advising senior leaders, we
have found that when faced with unfamiliar or risky situ-
ations, leaders often rely on their familiar playbook. They
act instinctively, falling back on behavior and postures that
worked for them before. But should their operating environ-
ment experience a discontinuity, reflexes—which may still
be right at times—can no longer be counted on. To be effec-
tive, leaders need to rise above their default reactions and
generate more options for how to act in the very moments
when they are needed most.





: C




Case study 133
When a short-seller
attacks, should you
fight back?

synthesis 138
Lessons from
history’s best

Life’s Work 144
Sandra Day
O’Connor on cattle
roundups and
consensus building

Managing Your Professional Growth hbr.org

Be Seen as a Leader
Managing YOurSeLf

A simple exercise can boost your status and influence.
by Adam D. Galinsky and Gavin J. Kilduff

You’ve been assigned to a new cross-
divisional task force, and the first
meeting is today. Managers from

across the company are gathered in a con-
ference room at headquarters; colleagues
from international offices are participating
via conference call and Skype. The CEO,
there just to oversee the group’s kickoff,
opens with a pep talk. “So we’re asking all
of you to help chart a new path,” he says.

“We expect some exciting ideas to emerge
from this group.” You look at the unfamil-
iar faces around you and imagine the other
people listening in from afar. You’re a mix
of men and women, with varied ages and
titles, representing different divisions and
functional backgrounds, living in different
countries. Who among you will become
the stars of this team?

Social scientists have spent decades
studying how individuals achieve status
within organizational groups—that is,
how they gain respect, prominence, and
influence in the eyes of others. We know,

for example, that demographics matter:
People of the historically dominant
race and gender and a respected age
(white men over 40 in the western

corporate world) are typically afforded
higher status than everyone else. Ap-
pearance also plays a role (the tall and the
good-looking are favored over those less
genetically blessed), as do personality
(confident extroverts win out) and formal
rank (the boss is the boss).

Thankfully, we also use more legiti-
mate measures to size up new teammates.

December 2013 Harvard Business review 127

These include expertise, competence,
and commitment—all good indicators of
whether a person will command others’
respect. But although educational and
professional credentials may testify to
these assets, they can be difficult to assess
immediately. So at first, as a shortcut, we
often revert to using the aforementioned
easily observable characteristics to deter-
mine who is worthy of leading the group.

Initial perceptions, of course, are
subject to change as people work together
and prove their merit. Still, the old adage

“You never get a second chance to make a
first impression” is at least partially true.
Numerous studies show that social hier-
archies develop quickly and are generally
stable: People who achieve high status
early tend to retain it.

A New





Elizabeth Long Lingo
Assistant professor,
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Kathleen L. McGinn
Professor, Harvard Business School

Spend less time
exerting control
and more
time mobilizing
energy and

Harvard Business Review
July–August 2020  67

ARA , T H E CH IEF ST R AT EGY officer of a
software firm, was the newest member of
the C-suite. Except for the CEO, the other
officers had joined the executive team from
the technology side in the course of acqui-
sitions. Tara, the only MBA, had come from
the business side and been recommended
by the board. She was excited about her
mandate: to drive a coherent strategy across
the firm’s fragmented divisions.

Several months in, however, Tara had accomplished little.
She’d been blocked by her fellow officers at every turn. In
frustration, she asked her supporters on the board to back
her up with the CEO. She was stunned when they not only
declined but said they might have erred in recommending
her for the position. What had gone wrong?

As most leaders discover sooner or later, effectively wield-
ing power is rarely straightforward. Simply exercising control
over others—the traditional concept of power—is often not
the best strategy; it may not even be an option. When the
path ahead or the very need for change is in dispute, when

looking to seize an opportunity rather than put out a fire,
when working across silos where claims to authority may be
ambiguous and contested, leaders should take a different
approach. The most potent uses of power often involve no
direct influence tactics at all.

On the basis of decades of research and consulting with
executives and managers, we have developed an approach
to power that goes beyond exerting control and mobilizes
others’ energy and commitment. Our model of power
focuses on its three core dimensions: situational, relational,
and dynamic. The degree to which you draw on all three will
determine how effectively you get things done.

Power Is Situational
Leaders often view power as a purely personal quality,
derived from their formal roles and titles, accreditations,
skills, and experience; from the information they control
and the reputation they’ve built; and from their charisma,
resilience, and energy. But power also arises from and
depends on situational factors such as your objectives, the
environment, and bases of power. Stanford professor Jeffrey
Pfeffer has observed that one of the primary ways leaders
limit their own power is by failing to search for and cultivate
sources of influence beyond formal authority and personal
charisma. We suggest several steps to help you identify and
deploy situational sources of power

the line
and chaos

Deborah Ancona
Professor, MIT Sloan
School of Management




Elaine Backman
Research affiliate,
MIT Leadership Center

Kate Isaacs
Research affiliate,
MIT Leadership Center


74 Harvard Business Review
July–August 2019


Nobody has really
recommended command-
and-control leadership
for a long time. But
no fully formed alternative
has emerged, either.
That’s partly because high-level executives are ambivalent
about changing their own behavior. They know perfectly well
that their companies need to become more innovative—and
they suspect it won’t happen unless they’re willing to push
power, decision making, and resource allocation lower in the
organization. But they’re terrified that the business will fall
into chaos if they loosen the reins.

In our research at MIT we’ve sought to understand how
that tension gets resolved in organizations with a strong track
record of continuous innovation. Most studies of leadership
in fast-changing, uncertain environments have focused
either on traditional bureaucracies attempting to become
more agile or on very young, entrepreneurial companies. We
took a different tack, looking in depth at two organizations
that have been around a long time—and therefore have
frequently adjusted to changing conditions—and have also
maintained an entrepreneurial spirit and a first-class inno-
vation capability: PARC, Xerox’s famous R&D company in
Silicon Valley, and W.L. Gore & Associates, the privately held
materials science company.

During several rounds of qualitative data collection and
follow-up interviews from 2009 to 2011 (with updates in
2019), we found many processes and behaviors commonly
associated with agile organizations: multidisciplinary teams,
a spirit of experimentation, and so forth. But we saw less
familiar patterns of leadership, too.

76 Harvard Business Review
July–August 201976 Harvard Business Review
July–August 2019


The mechanisms that enable self-management also balance freedom and control.
PARC and Gore function efficiently and exploit opportunities while minimizing rules.

First, we identified three distinct types of leaders. Entre-
preneurial leaders, typically concentrated at lower levels
of an organization, create value for customers with new
products and services; collectively, they move the organiza-
tion into unexplored territory. Enabling leaders, in the middle
of the organization, make sure the entrepreneurs have the
resources and information they need. And architecting
leaders, near the top, keep an eye on the whole game

Harnessing the Science
of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

A LUCKY FEW HAVE IT; most of US do not. A handful
/ of gifted “naturals” simply know how to cap-

/ ture an audience, sway the undecided, and
convert the opposition. Watching these masters of
persuasion work their magic is at once impressive
and frustrating. What’s impressive is not just the easy
way they use charisma and eloquence to convince
others to do as they ask. It’s also how eager those
others are to do what’s requested of them, as if the
persuasion itself were a favor they couldn’t wait
to repay.

The frustrating part of the experience is that
these bom persuaders are often unahle to ac-
count for their remarkable skill or pass it on to
others. Their way with people is an art, and
artists as a rule are far hetter at doing than at
explaining. Most of them can’t offer much
help to those of us who possess no more
than the ordinary quotient of charisma
and eloquence but who still have to wres-
tle with leadership’s fundamental chal-
lenge: getting things done through oth-
ers. That challenge is painfully familiar
to corporate executives, who every day
have to figure out how to motivate
and direct a highly individualistic
workforce. Playing the “Because I’m
the boss” card is out. Even if it
weren’t demeaning and demoraliz-
ing for all concerned, it would be
out of place in a world where
cross-functional teams, joint ven-
tures, and intercompany part-
nerships have blurred the lines
of authority. In such an en-
vironment, persuasion skills
exert far greater influence
over others’ behavior than
formal power structures do.


Jo leader can succeed without mastering the art of persuasion.

But there’s hard science in that skill, too, and a large body

3f psychological research suggests there are six basic laws of

rinning friends and influencing people.


Harness i ng the Science o f Persuas ion

Which brings us back to where we started. Persuasion
skills may be more necessary than ever, but how can ex-
ecutives acquire them if the most talented practitioners
can’t pass them along? By looking to science. For the past
five decades, behavioral scientists have conducted exper-
iments that shed considerable light on the way certain
interactions lead people to concede, comply, or change.
This research shows that persuasion works by appealing
to a limited set of deeply rooted human drives and needs,
and it does so in predictable ways. Persuasion, in other
words, is governed by basic principles that can be taught,
learned, and applied. By mastering these principles, exec-
utives can bring scientific rigor to the business of securing
consensus, cutting deals, and winning concessions. In the
pages that follow, 1 describe six fundamental principles of
persuasion and suggest a few wa

Tipping Point

by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne


How can you catapult your organization

to high performance when time and

money are scarce? Police chief Bill Bratton

has pulled that off again and again.

Here’s what it takes.

APRIL 2003

I N FEBRUARY 1994, William Bratton was appointed
police commissioner of New York City. The odds were
against him. The New York Police Department, with

a $2 billion budget and a workforce of 35,000 police offi-
cers, was notoriously difficult to manage. Turf wars over
jurisdiction and funding were rife. Officers were under-
paid relative to their counterparts in neighboring com-
munities, and promotion seemed to bear little relation-
ship to performance. Crime had gotten so far out of
control that the press referred to the Big Apple as the Rot-
ten Apple. Indeed, many social scientists had concluded,
after three decades of increases, that New York City crime
was impervious to police intervention. The best the police
could do was react to crimes once they were committed.

Yet in less than two years, and without an increase in
his budget. Bill Bratton turned New York Into the safest
large city in the nation. Between 1994 and 1996, felony
crime fell 39%; murders, 50%; and theft, 35%. Gallup polls
reported that public confidence in the NYPD jumped
from 37% to 73%, even as internal surveys showed job sat-
isfaction in the police department reaching an all-time
high. Not surprisingly, Bratton’s popularity soared, and in
1996, he was featured on the cover of Time. Perhaps most
impressive, the changes have outlasted their instigator,
implying a fundamental shift in the department’s organi-
zational culture and strategy. Crime rates have continued
to fall: Statistics released in December 2002 revealed that
New York’s overall crime rate is the lowest among the 25
largest cities in the United States.

The NYPD turnaround would be impressive enough
for any police chief. For Bratton, though, it is only the lat-
est of no fewer than five successful turnarounds in a 20-
year career in policing. In the hope that Bratton can re-
peat his New York and Boston successes, Los Angeles has
recruited him to take on the challenge of turning around
the LAPD. (For a summary of his achievements, see the
exhibit “Bratton in Action.”)

So what makes Bill Bratton tick? As management re-
searchers, we have long been fascinated by what triggers
high performance or suddenly brings an ailing organiza-
tion back to life. In an effort to find the common elements


Tipping Point Leadership

underlying such leaps in performance, we have built a
database of more than 125 business and nonbusiness or-
ganizations. Bratton first caught our attention in the early
1990S, when we heard about his turnaround of the New

VER THE PAST DECADE, I have watched more than 100

companies try to remake themselves into significantly

better competitors. They have included large organiza-

tions (Ford) and small ones (Landmark Communications),

companies based in the United States (General Motors) and else-

where (British Airways), corporations that were on their knees

(Eastern Airlines), and companies that were earning good money

(Bristol-Myers Squibb). These efforts have gone under many ban-

ners: total quality management, reengineering, rightsizing, re-

structuring, cultural change, and turnaround. But, in almost

every case, the basic goal has been the same: to make fundamen-

tal changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope

with a new, more challenging market environment.

A few of these corporate change efforts have been very suc-

cessful. A few have been utter failures. Most fall somewhere in be-

tween, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale. The

lessons that can be drawn are interesting and will probably be rel-

evant to even more organizations in the increasingly competitive


Leading Change
Why Transformation Efforts Fail
Leaders who successfully transform businesses do eight things right (and they do them
in the right order).

by John P. Kotter

Editor’s Note: Guiding change may be the ultimate test of a leader – no business
survives over the long term if it can’t reinvent itself. But, human nature being
what it is, fundamental change is often resisted mightily by the people it most
affects: those in the trenches of the business. Thus, leading change is both
absolutely essential and incredibly difficult.

Perhaps nobody understands the anatomy of organizational change better
than retired Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter. This article,
originally published in the spring of 1995, previewed Kotter’s 1996 book Leading

Change. It outlines eight critical success factors – from establishing a sense of
extraordinary urgency, to creating short-term wins, to changing the culture (“the
way we do things around here”). It will feel familiar when you read it, in part
because Kotter’s vocabulary has entered the lexicon and in part because it
contains the kind of home truths that we recognize, immediately, as if we’d
always known them. A decade later, his work on leading change remains


96 Harvard Business Review | January 2007 | hbr.org








hbr.org | January 2007 | Harvard Business Review 97

business environment of the coming


The most general lesson to be

learned from t




It’s time to reinvent
their role for the
new world
of work.

Diane Gherson
Former chief human
resources officer, IBM

Lynda Gratton
Professor, London
Business School

96 Harvard Business Review
March–April 2022


Managers are the
lifeblood of organizations.
In recent decades,
as the workplace has
changed, they’ve been
asked to take on new
responsibilities and
demonstrate new skills—
and are struggling to
cope. This threatens
productivity, employee
well-being, and brand

Change has come
along three dimensions:
power (managers have
to think about making
teams successful, not
being served by them);
skills (they’re expected
to coach performance,
not oversee tasks); and
structure (they have
to lead in more-fluid

We need to do
everything we can to
help managers adapt.
The three companies
featured in this article
have deliberately—
and successfully—
transformed the role of
manager so that it better
meets the demands of
21st-century work.

Jennifer stares at her upward-feedback report and
wonders how she got to this point. How could a
veteran like her, someone who was once celebrated as
manager of the year, receive such negative ratings?
She used to enjoy her role, but now everything feels out
of control. Her job has been reshaped so constantly—
by sweeping process reengineering, digitization, and
agile initiatives, and most recently by remote work—
that she always feels at least one step behind.


98 Harvard Business Review
March–April 2022

The amount of change that has taken place in just the past
few years is overwhelming. The management layer above
her was eliminated, which doubled the size of her team,
and almost half the people on it are now working on cross-
division projects led by other managers. She and her team
used to meet in her office for progress reviews, but now she
has no office, and if she wants to know how her people are
doing, she has to join their stand-ups, which makes her feel
like an onlooker rather than their boss. She no longer feels
in touch with how everybody is doing, and yet she has the
same set of personnel responsibilities as before: providing
performance feedback, making salary adjustments, hiring
and firing, engaging in career discussions.

Not only that, but she’s being asked to take on even more.
Because her company is rapidly digitizing, for example, she’s
responsible for upgrading her staff’s technical skills. This
makes her uncomfortable because it feels threatening to
many of her team members. When she talks with them about
it, she’s expected to

118 Harvard Business Review
May–June 2019

Is More
Than You
Employees are eager to embrace
retraining—and companies need
to seize this as a competitive



Joseph B. Fuller
Professor, Harvard
Business School

Judith K. Wallenstein
Senior partner and
managing director, BCG

Manjari Raman
Program director, Managing
the Future of Work, HBS

Alice de Chalendar
Consultant, BCG


“The majority of people in disappearing jobs do not realize
what is coming,” the head of strategy at a top German bank
recently told us. “My call center workers are neither able nor
willing to change.”

This kind of thinking is common, but it’s wrong, as we
learned after surveying thousands of employees around
the world. In 2018, in an attempt to understand the various
forces shaping the nature of work, Harvard Business
School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work and the
Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute came
together to conduct a survey spanning 11 countries—Brazil,
China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Spain,
Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States—
gathering responses from 1,000 workers in each. In it we
focused solely on the people most vulnerable to changing
dynamics: lower-income and middle-skills workers.
The majority of them were earning less than the average
household income in their countries, and all of them had no
more than two years of post secondary education. In each
of eight countries—Brazil, China, France, Germany, India,
Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—we then
surveyed at least 800 business leaders (whose companies
differed from those of the workers we surveyed). In total we
gathered responses from 11,000 workers and 6,500 busi-
ness leaders.

What we learned was fascinating: The two groups
perceived the future in significantly different ways. Given the
complexity of the changes that companies are confronting
today and the speed with which they need to make decisions,


As they try to build a workforce
in a climate of perpetual disruption,
business leaders worry that their
employees can’t—or just won’t—
adapt to the big changes that lie
ahead. How can companies find
people with the skills they will need?

Harvard Business School and the BCG
Henderson Institute surveyed thousands
of business leaders and workers around
the world and discovered an important
gap in perceptions: Workers are far more
willing and able to embrace change than
their employers assume.

This gap represents an opportunity.
Companies need to start thinking
of their employees as a reserve of
talent and energy that can be


It happens more than managers think: em-
ployees refrain from voicing an opinion
about a major issue out of fear or because
they believe their opinion will not matter.

Consider this comment from an employee of
an IT company who participated in a research
study: “I raised a concern about some policies
and I was told to shut up and that I was becom-
ing a troublemaker. I would have pursued (the
issue) further but presently I can’t afford to
risk my job. This has made me go into a de-
tached mode, making me a yes-man.”

As work in organizations gets increasingly

knowledge-based, information-sharing has
become essential for problem-solving and
innovation. When employees don’t feel safe
to speak up about problems or concerns, it
can mean the loss of valuable information for
a company.

From a societal point of view, silence at
work has other potential costs. Employees
who don’t feel safe to speak up about prob-
lems or concerns can experience stress, anxi-
ety and lack of motivation on the job. Apart
from the obvious effect these negative emo-
tions, moods, attitudes and beliefs will have on


How Employee Voice
Helps Community




How Employee Voice Helps Community Engagement


employees at work, they can also spill over into
other domains of employees’ lives.

For example, if employees come to believe
that it is useless to bring up problems with their
managers, they may generalize this belief to
other human interactions they have outside of
work, lessening their motivation to participate
in the institutions in their communities.

So what gives rise to employee silence, and
how can it be tackled if it’s already a problem?

This article will look at some of the causes
of employee silence and how such silence can
come to permeate an organization. We will
then argue that organizational silence can have
far-reaching consequences for communities
and society at large, due to the powerful role
that companies play in shaping the attitudes,
behavior and skills of their people. Finally, we
will suggest how managers can avoid the prob-
lem of silence by facilitating upward commu-
nication in their workplaces.

A Widespread yet
Invisible Problem
Giving employees the opportunity to voice
their ideas or suggestions in a safe environ-
ment may seem like an obvious way to boost
employee commitment and well-being in ad-
dition to productivity in the workplace. But
research suggests that employee silence is a
widespread yet potentially invisible problem
in many organizations today.

This was borne out by interviews with em-

The Uses
(and Abuses)
of Influence
RobeRt Cialdini, considered the leading social scientist in the field
of influence, was initially drawn to the topic because he saw how
easily people could step over an ethical line into manipulation or
even abuse. His 2001 book Influence, which laid out six principles
of persuasion, was eloquent about the dangers of persuasive
techniques in the wrong hands. A best-selling article he wrote for
HBR the same year, “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion,” looked
at the positive side of persuasion: how managers could use those
principles to run their organizations more effectively.

Cialdini is the Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and
Marketing at Arizona State University and the president of the
consulting firm Influence at Work. In this edited interview with
HBR executive editor Sarah Cliffe, he drills deeper into everyday
uses of persuasion inside businesses and describes new research
on the ethics of influence.

Spotlight: Interview with Robert Cialdini
Spotlight on InflUEnCE

76  Harvard Business Review July–august 2013








HBR: I’m going to run a few scenarios by you to
explore how people can influence others more
effectively at work. First, imagine that you’re an
employee trying to behave entrepreneurially. You
need resources to jump-start a great business
idea. How do you get people to help?
Cialdini: It requires prework. People will help if they
owe you for something you did in the past to ad-
vance their goals. That’s the rule of reciprocity.

Get in the habit of helping people out, and—this
part’s really important—don’t wave it away when
people thank you. Don’t say, “Oh, no big deal.” We’re
given serious persuasive power immediately af-
ter someone thanks us. So say something like “Of
course; it’s what partners do for each other”—label
what happened an act of partnership. With that
prework done, a manager who subsequently needs
support, who needs staffing, who maybe even needs
a budget, will have significantly elevated the prob-
ability of success.

Adam Grant’s work on the importance of giving
inside organizations echoes that, doesn’t it?
It does. Grant provides a brilliant analysis. Another
fascinating study was done by Frank Flynn, for-
merly at Columbia, now at Stanford. He examined
giving behaviors at a large telecom and found that
two things happened when people helped their col-
leagues. One, the helpers were perceived by their fel-
low employees to be extremely valuable. Two—and
here’s where it gets complicated—they had lower
productivity on their own projects. They were di-
verting a lot of time and energy to their colleagues’

How do you manage that discrepancy between
generosity and productivity?

Get the Boss
to Buy In

ARTWORK Mauro Perucchetti, Notre Dame (detail), 2003
Acrylic and urethane jelly babies, 76″ x 76″SPOTLIGHT

72  Harvard Business Review January–February 2015


Learn to sell your
ideas up the chain
of command.
by Susan J. Ashford
and James Detert

energy company—we’ll call
him John Healy—wanted to

sell his boss on a safer and
cheaper gas-scrubbing tech-

nology. This might have been an easy task
if his boss, the general manager, hadn’t se-
lected the existing system just a year before.
Instead it was, in Healy’s words, “a delicate
process.” Fortunately, user reviews of the
new technology had become available only
in the past several months, which Healy tact-
fully mentioned in his presentation to the GM
and other senior executives. He also included
a detailed comparison of the two systems,
drawing on implementations at comparable
plants; the data suggested that the new sys-
tem would remove contaminants more effi-
ciently and reduce costs by about $700,000
a year. Because the GM was still on the fence,
Healy brought in a bio-gas expert his boss
trusted and respected to talk about the new
technology’s merits. The company made the
investment and adopted the new system.

Organizations don’t prosper unless man-
agers in the middle ranks, like Healy, identify
and promote the need for change. People at
that level gather valuable intelligence from

direct contact with customers, suppliers, and
colleagues. They’re in a position to see when
the market is ripe for a certain offering, for
instance, or to detect early signs that a part-
nership won’t work out. But for many reasons,
ranging from a fear of negative consequences
to compliance with a top-down culture, they
may not voice their ideas and concerns. As we
know from our research and others’ work in
this area, not to mention recent news stories,
such silence can have dire consequences—
like “regulatory capture” in banking and un-
checked product safety risks.

Even when they do speak up, most man-
agers struggle to sell their ideas to people at
the top. They find it difficult to raise issues
to a “strategic” level early in the decision-
making process—if they gain entry into such
conversations at all. Studies show that senior
executives dismiss good ideas from below
far too often, largely for this reason: If they
don’t already perceive an idea’s relevance to
organizational performance, they don’t deem
it important enough to merit their attention.
Middle managers have to work to alter that

Their task is easier if certain contextual fac-
tors are in place—for instance, a track record


January–February 2015 Harvard Business Review 73

of strong in

Senior leaders can become
insulated from early signs of
danger and opportunity.
Here’s how to overcome that.

Adam Bryant
Managing director, Merryck & Co.

Kevin Sharer
Former CEO and chairman, Amgen


Are You



80 Harvard Business Review
March–April 2021

Harvard Business Review
March–April 2021  81

His colleagues were confident, employed a command-and-
control style of leadership, and made their expectations
clear. Kevin adopted that style, which came naturally to
him and allowed him to rise rapidly on the career ladder.
He recalls, “My approach was: ‘I’m the smartest guy in the
room. Just let me prove that here, in the first five minutes.’
I would even interrupt people and tell them what they were
going to tell me, to save us time so that we could get to the
really important stuff, which was me telling them what to do.
And I got away with it. It worked.”

Until it didn’t.
In 2000 Kevin became Amgen’s CEO. In that role he

assembled a new leadership team and set the company on
a trajectory of rising revenue and profits. Magazine cover
stories and other recognition followed, pushing him into
what, in hindsight, he calls the “ego danger zone.” He was
less engaged and became intellectually lazy. The talk in
the company, a trusted lieutenant later informed him, was
that people should avoid meeting with the boss after 3 pm,
because his attention waned as the day wore on.

Then a crisis hit. Seven years into his tenure as CEO, a
red-blood-cell stimulant called Epogen, which accounted
for a third of Amgen’s profits and was believed to be nearly
free of side effects, was flagged in studies suggesting that
at higher doses it caused a slightly greater risk of heart
problems for patients. The FDA ordered changes in how it
was prescribed, which sharply lowered sales. As profits fell,
Kevin had to order the first mass layoff in the company’s
history, cutting 14% of its staff.

At first he angrily blamed others for the debacle. “I was
completely in denial,” he recalls. “I had become impatient
and arrogant, and I assumed people were going to fix the
problem.” But one evening Kevin found himself sitting alone
in a restaurant in Santa Monica, waiting for his daughter and
her husband to join him for dinner. That rare moment of
quiet provided time for reflection and led to an epiphany.
He had mishandled the Epogen crisis, he realized, in large
part because he was a horrible listener.

Kevin resolved to do better from that day on. Instead of
thinking of eight things at once when he was meeting with
somebody, he would be pres ent. Instead of approaching
every conversation as a transactional exchange and cutting
people off and telling them what to do, he w

ARTWORK Artist Name, Artwork Name, year
Description of materials, size
Name of show if available, location

Power Play

ARTWORK Rune Guneriussen, One Can Rely on the Prudence
of His Decisions #04, 2008, c-print/aluminum, 84 x 124 cmSpotlight

84 Harvard Business Review July–August 2010


1252 JulAug10 Pfeffer.indd 841252 JulAug10 Pfeffer.indd 84 6/8/10 1:39:42 PM6/8/10 1:39:42 PM

Jeff rey Pfeff er (pfeff er_
jeff [email protected])
is the Thomas D. Dee II
Professor of Organizational
Behavior at Stanford Univer-
sity’s Graduate School of
Business in California. His
latest book, Power: Why
Some People Have It—And
Others Don’t, is forthcoming
from HarperCollins.

Acquiring real clout—the kind that helps
you get stuff done—requires bare-knuckle
strategies. by Jeff rey Pfeff er

WHEN LAURA ESSERMAN, MD, MBA, became the di-
rector of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at
the University of California at San Francisco, in 1997,
she had big plans—for both the center and medicine
more generally. She hoped to boost the institution’s
prominence and patient throughput by delivering in-
tegrated care in one attractive setting. Women would
not have to go from place to place for the various
diagnostic procedures and treatments they needed,
enduring anxious, multiday delays as they waited
for test results. A woman could arrive in the morn-
ing with a suspicious lump and leave at the end of
the day with a treatment plan. To accelerate overall
progress in treating breast cancer, Esserman wanted
to increase the ease and speed of enrolling patients
in clinical trials and to build an informatics system
that would capture data about treatment outcomes
from many sites. All of this represented a sensible
strategy, and it has worked out well: The center now
sees many times more patients than when Esserman
took over; a new website has led to increased and
easier enrollment in clinical trials; and the Athena
project, which collects data from multiple UC medi-
cal centers, is under way.

None of this was easy to accomplish. For Laura
Esserman, as for all executives working in interde-
pendent systems full of strong-willed people with
their own agendas, having a plan was only the fi rst
step. Although she was the center’s director, she
had little say in many personnel decisions. Each of
the departments she wanted to bring together had
its own objectives and concerns. While she and her
team were thinking about patients’ outcomes and
service experiences, the CFO had to worry about the
budget and bond ratings. The facility was housed in
a state building, so even if Esserman raised private



great idea—a product tweak that will
save your company money, a process
change to increase your team’s produc-
tivity, or a plan for heading off a looming
crisis. There’s just one snag: You’re not
sure how to approach your boss about it,
or worse, you’ve tried and failed to get
the attention of higher-ups.

Despite abundant research on the
value of bottom-up innovation and
problem-solving, many workers still feel
stifled in giving their bosses feedback or
making suggestions. One survey of U.S.
employees found that a full 70% weren’t
comfortable raising an issue with their
boss even when it was important,
and a landmark 2003 study found that
85% of employees withheld their ideas
because they were afraid to speak up.

Additional research shows that
even when employees do speak up,

Illustrations by JUSTYNA STASIK


How to Sell Your Ideas up
the Chain of Command
Start by understanding your manager.

by Ethan Burris

Harvard Business Review
January–February 2022  139


Advice and

their suggestions usually don’t lead
to change. For example, an Accenture
study showed that nearly three-fourths
of ideas submitted through corporate
online suggestion tools languished and
were never implemented. Another study
of a hospital found that of 200 ideas
shared by employees, most were initially
rejected and fewer than a quarter were
ever implemented.

For the past two decades, I’ve studied
how employees offer solicited and
unsolicited recommendations and how
managers respond. Obviously, there are
many reasons why ideas—including
those from senior leaders—fail to make
it to implementation. But too often good
ideas are ignored or rejected. I’ve found
that two factors are key to a successful
pitch: having the confidence to make
your suggestion and knowing how to
frame it to get the best reception from
your boss. Some managers will be more
unapproachable and unresponsive
than others, but research shows that
the majority are more open to ideas and
suggestions than you might imagine—
provided they are approached effectively.

In the studies my colleagues and
I have conducted across health care,
restaurant, oil and gas, technology,
and financial service organizations,
we’ve uncovered several strategies that
you can use to make yourself heard
by managers, thereby enhancing both
your company’s performance and your
own experience at work. We’ve found
that the key to selling your idea up the
chain of command is to understand the
psychology of higher-ups—to get inside
their heads. Doing so can help you
recognize what tips the scales in your
favor—and identify the (rare) instances

when it’s best to try to go around or
above them.


The Real
Secret to


The subtle art of making
people feel special



Former dean, Rotman School of Management

Harvard Business Review
March–April 2022  127



Unique talent can have
a huge impact on the
quality of the work an
organization produces. So
it’s crucial to keep your
star performers happy.

Many bosses assume
that compensation is
the solution. But money
on its own has seldom
retained really first-class
talent. Star performers
also need to feel special,
which means you can’t
treat them as if they’re
simply a well-paid cog in
your machine.

A boss should show
stars appreciation in
three ways: by listening
to their ideas, never
blocking their growth and
development, and taking
every opportunity to
praise them.

128 Harvard Business Review
March–April 2022

Individuals with unique talent can profoundly affect the
value—and even the nature—of the work their organizations
produce. A film studio can make a movie with or without
Julia Roberts, but it won’t be the same movie. The Green Bay
Packers can play football without quarterback Aaron Rodg-
ers—but they will have to run a different offense. If a pharma-
ceutical company loses its star scientist, it will have to change
its research program. If a hedge fund loses its investment
guru, it will need to alter its approach to investing.

As the knowledge economy has taken over the business
world, people with rare expertise and skills have become
powerful—be they corporate executives, research scientists,
money managers, artists, athletes, or celebrities. At the same
time, technology and innovation have modernized the cap-
ital markets, making funding much easier to get and further
shifting power from capital to talent. And while the earnings
of talent in many domains have skyrocketed over the past
four decades, nothing has matched topflight managers’
ability to extract value: Steve Ballmer made the vast majority
of his $96 billion fortune by being Bill Gates’s first business
manager. Eric Schmidt’s $24 billion net worth came from
taking the reins of Google for a decade, and Meg Whitman’s
$5 billion from serving as eBay’s CEO for 10 years.

Such eye-popping numbers have given rise to the belief
that star performers are deeply motivated by compensation
and that big monetary rewards are key to their recruitment
and retention. There is a grain of truth to that. I’ve met plenty
of CEOs who pump up the perceived value of their companies
to inflate their stock-based compensation; activist hedge-
fund managers who destroy companies for short-term ga

An idea is just the first step. Then you’ve got to
sell it.

Whether it’s a new vision for collaborating
with the marketing team or a better way to

work with suppliers, your idea’s value is determined by
your ability to get others to buy into it and execute it.

The biggest obstacle to persuasion? Focusing too much
on what you see as the idea’s value, says Mario Moussa,
codirector of the Wharton School’s Strategic Persuasion
Workshop and coauthor, with G. Richard Shell, of The
Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas
(Portfolio, 2007). “What’s convincing to you is not
necessarily convincing to others,” he says.

From their work helping executives and managers
handle complex negotiations and gain buy-in on change,
Moussa and Shell have developed a strategic approach to
persuasion. Its four steps are:

1. Targeting the right person.

2. Removing the barriers to being heard.

3. Making your pitch.

4. Securing commitments.

This article will focus on steps 2 and 3: removing
barriers and making your pitch.

Turn PoTenTiAl BArrierS inTo BridgeS

Effective persuasion is not about aiming a firehose of
data and arguments and testimonials at someone. The
more you push, the more likely it is that the other person
will push back. If you have power over that person, he
probably won’t come right out and say he doesn’t buy into
your plan. His disagreement will be tacit, his resistance
covert. But the impact on execution will be plain as day.

Instead, think of persuasion as making it easy and
obvious for the other person to agree with you.

These five barriers can come between you and the person
whose yes you seek: (1) credibility, (2) relationships, (3)
beliefs or values, (4) interests, (5) communication.

But each one of these barriers can also serve as a
bridge, helping you connect with the other person and
move them to your side.

It all begins with credibility. If the people you are trying

to persuade don’t find you credible, you’ve got little
chance of persuading them. Credibility isn’t about you
and your credentials; it’s about how other people think
about you and your credentials. Establishing credibility
means demonstrating that you possess competence and
expertise, and that you’re trustworthy. Don’t wait until
you have an idea to sell; everything you say and do should
build credibility for the day you’ll need it to sell an idea.

When people know you, like you, and trust that you’ll
reciprocate any favors they do for you, they are much
more likely to listen to your ideas and to go along with
them. Conversely, when they don’t know you, they have
little reason to trust you or your ideas.

“in the end, people persuade themselves.

so don’t push your idea on others; instead,

create pu

Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.


Leaders can make change

happen only if they have

a coherent strategy for

persuasion.The impressive

turnaround at a world-

renowned teaching

hospital shows how to

plan a change campaign-

and carry it out.

by David A. Garvin and
Michael A. Roberto

“”ACED WITH THE NEED for massive change, most
^ managers respond predictably. They revamp the

• organization’s strategy, then round up the usual set
of suspects-people, pay, and processes-shifting around
staff, realigning incentives, and rooting out inefficien-
cies. They then wait patiently for performance to im-
prove, only to be bitterly disappointed. For some rea-
son, the right things still don’t happen.

Why is change so hard? First of all, most people are
reluctant to alter their habits. What worked in the past is
good enough; in the absence ofa dire threat, employees
will keep doing what they’ve always done. And when an


Change Through Persuasion

organization has had a succession of leaders, resistance to
change is even stronger. A legacy of disappointment and
distrust creates an environment in which employees au-
tomatically condemn the next turnaround champion to
failure, assuming that he or she is “just like all the others.”
Calls for sacrifice and self-discipline are met with cyni-
cism, skepticism, and knee-jerk resistance.

Our research into organizational transformation has
involved settings as diverse as multinational corporations,
government agencies, nonprofits, and high-performing
teams like mountaineering expeditions and firefighting
crews. We’ve found that for change to stick, leaders must
design and run an effective persuasion campaign-one
that hegins weeks or months hefore the actual turnaround
plan is set in concrete. Managers must perform significant
work up front to ensure that employees will actually lis-
ten to tough messages, question old assumptions, and
consider new ways of working. This means taking a series

vince employees that theirs is the correct plan for mov-
ing forward.

Accomplishing all this calls for a four-part communica-
tions strategy. Prior to announcing a policy or issuing a set
of instmctions, leaders need to set the stage for accep-
tance. At the time of delivery, they must create the frame
through which information and messages are interpreted.
As time passes, they must manage the mood so that em-
ployees’ emotional states support implementation and
follow-through. And at critical intervals, they must pro-
vide reinforcement to ensure that the desired changes
take hold without backsliding.

In the pages that follow, we describe this process in
more detail, drawing on the example of the turnaround of
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BiDMC) in Boston.
Paul Levy, who

Copyright 2002 Harvard Business Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Additional restrictions
may apply including the use of this content as assigned course material. Please consult your
institution’s librarian about any restrictions that might apply under the license with your
institution. For more information and teaching resources from Harvard Business Publishing
including Harvard Business School Cases, eLearning products, and business simulations
please visit hbsp.harvard.edu.

The language of leadership is misunderstood, underutilized
and more essential than ever.




THERE EVER WAS A TIME for businesspeople to learn the fine art

of persuasion^ it is now. Gone are the command-and-control days of

executives managing hy decree. Today husinesses are run largely hy

eross-functional teams of peers and populated hy hahy hoomers and

their Generation X offspring, who show little tolerance for unques-

tioned authority. Electronic cominunication and glohalization have

further eroded the traditional hierarchy, as ideas and people flow more

freely than ever around organizations and as decisions get made closer

to the markets. These fundamental changes, more than a decade in

the making hut now firmly part of the economic landscape, essentially

come down to this: work today gets done in an environment where


The ideas behind this article spring from three streams
of research.

For the last 12 years as both an academic and as a
consultant, I have been studying 23 senior business
leaders who have shown themselves to be effective
change agents. Specifically, I have investigated how
these individuals use language to motivate their em-
ployees, articulate vision and strategy, and mobilize
their organizations to adapt to challenging business

Four years ago, I started a second stream of research
exploring the capabilities and characteristics of suc-
cessful cross-functional team leaders. The core of my
database comprised interviews with and observations
of 18 individuals working in a range of U.S. and Cana-
dian companies. These were not senior leaders as in
my earlier studies but low- and middle-level man-
agers. Along with interviewing the colleagues of these
people, I also compared their skills with those of other

team leaders-in particular, with the leaders of less
successful cross-functional teams engaged in similar
initiatives within the same companies. Again, my fo-
cus was on language, but I also studied the influence of
interpersonal skills.

The similarities in the persuasion skills possessed
by both the change-agent leaders and effective team
leaders prompted me to explore the academic litera-
ture on persuasion and rhetoric, as well as on the art of
gospel preaching. Meanwhile, to learn how most man-
agers approach the persuasion process, I observed sev-
eral dozen managers in company meetings, and I em-
ployed simulations in company executive-education
programs where groups of managers had to persuade
one another on hypothetical business objectives.
Finally, I selected a group of 14 managers known for
their outstanding abilities in constructive persuasion.

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