Summer 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT1

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Power and Influence


Joan S. Thomson
Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology
Coordinator, Staff Development
Cooperative Extension Service
College of Agriculture
Pennsylvania State University - University Park


Power and Influence: Beyond Formal Authority. John P. Kotter. New York, New York: Free Press, 1985. 224 pp. $19.95 hardcover.

Power and Influence is written for professionals with managerial responsibilities but with no formal management training. Kotter has synthesized his extensive research into a readable book about complex organizations and the behavior of key individuals in such groups.

None of us would argue- Cooperative Extension is a complex organization. Many of our personnel have managerial responsibilities, and we must usually accomplish our goals by working through others - staff or volunteers - independent of formal authority. In Kotter's words, we work in a "power gap."

After reading Power and Influence, you'll understand the causes and consequences of the social environment we work in and the resulting interdependencies among diverse groups of people. From Kotter's perspective, our ability to be organizationally effective in such settings requires our leaders to develop sufficient sources of power and be willing to use that power responsibly. Only then can we overcome the "power gap."

This book helps you to understand how organizations create dependencies. Yet, you'll be given limited, practical insight into how to develop leadership competencies that foster excellence, innovation, or responsiveness in organizations.

Without a firm grounding in theory and practice, good intentions can lead to "bureaucratic infighting, parochial politics, and destructive power struggles." Kotter's intent, however, is to help those in organizations work for the institutional good in socially responsible and professionally effective ways. It's a good beginning.