A book offers a taxonomy of the different kinds of power and a manual for understanding and employing it.
In her latest volume, Diamond (co-author, with Lee Spark Jones: A Path Made by Walking, 2005) takes a cleareyed and refreshingly nonjudgmental look at power—its nature, history, and most of all the techniques for using it and not abusing it. Power, which she defines as “our capacity to impact and influence our environment,” is for her a neutral thing, neither good nor bad but merely raw energy that exists to be shaped and harnessed. Far from being a poison as it’s typically characterized, power possesses a generative, creative potential, the author stresses. She insists that “we need power…[it] may be difficult to master, but it’s vital to have.” But her book, which assesses power in many of its modern incarnations and traces its manipulation, remains intensely focused on the potential for abuse (the author immediately invokes Lord Acton’s famous dictum about power corrupting). Diamond keeps reminding her readers of their human fallibility, especially in contact with power. “Our confidence soars as our perceptions grow more distorted,” she writes. “Our self-esteem rises, while our self-awareness decreases. Our capacity to feel empathy for others lessens, just as the influence we have over them increases.” Diamond begins her account with a broad look at the nature of power in modern society, but although she mentions doctors, lawyers, therapists, and religious leaders, her book is clearly aimed at business executives, and a certain TED-talk plasticity works its way into most of the text, which stresses boardroom-style reflections on managing people and using power to reinforce authority. One of the book’s goals is to help such CEOs (and CEOs–in-training) find their “powerprint,” their own personal-power equation, and this goal is illustrated by stories from history and the lives of entrepreneurial icons like Steve Jobs. Diamond’s prose throughout is straightforward and aphoristically quotable—people interested in power (or hoping to wield it) should find this book mesmerizing.
An intensely readable field guide to using power without abusing it.