37 Mind Blowing Jeffrey Pfeffer Quotes

Jeffrey Pfeffer is an American business theorist and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford. Author of more than a dozen business leadership books, Pfeffer is thought of as one of today’s most influential thinkers on management. Here is a look at some of the most amazing Jeffrey Pfeffer quotes ever recorded.

“Advocates of knowledge management as the next big thing have advanced the proposition that what companies need is more intellectual capital. While that is undeniably true, its only partly true.”

“Authenticity seems like sort of a joke. Actually I believe it was the late comedian George Burns who said,”if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.”

“Being memorable equals getting picked.”

“Charisma is only one source of power, and probably not a very important one, at that.”

“Doing the right thing is important, which is where strategy comes in. But doing that thing well—execution—is what sets companies apart. After all, every football play is designed to go for a huge gain.”

“Effective management is a system, not a pay plan. The mistake is that companies try to solve all their problems with pay.”


“I am increasingly convinced that people who have power are not necessarily smarter than others. Beyond a certain level of intelligence and level in the hierarchy, everyone is smart. What differentiates people is their political skill and savvy.”

“I completely reject the idea that working adults need to be treated like infants or worse and not told the realities, harsh or not, about the world of work.”

“I decided to write Leadership BS because I was irritated by the hypocrisy in the leadership literature and the fact that many of the people writing leadership books exhibited behavior that was precisely the opposite of what they advocated and also what they claimed they did.”

“I do not think anyone who ever saw Lyndon Johnson give a speech would call him charismatic, even though he was one of the most effective presidents in U.S. history.”

“Keeping people in the dark and filling them with stories that are either mostly fabricated, unusually rare, or both, doesn’t do anyone any good. It is one of the reasons that workplaces and careers remain in such dire straits.”

“Knowledge is only useful if you do something with it.”

“Leaders are not modest, and more importantly, the extensive social science research on narcissism, self-promotion, and similar constructs shows that these qualities and behaviors are useful for getting hired, achieving promotions, keeping one’s job, and obtaining a higher salary.”

“Lying is common in social life, often done for benign purposes, seldom draws severe sanctions, and many of the most notable leaders, including the late Steve Jobs, were consummate prevaricators.”

“Many of our students want to do what they have done and that has made them successful thus far in their lives: play by the rules, and do what is expected.”

“Most organisations say they want creativity, but really they do not.”

“My overall recommendation: for decades corporate policy manuals and HR departments have told people they are responsible for their own careers. It’s about time people really heeded those warnings.”

“People cannot be invariant across situations and roles and, moreover, leaders need to be true not to themselves, but to what others want, need, and expect from them.”

“People who don’t have as much power as they would like often begin by attributing their difficulties to the environment – competitors, bosses, economic circumstances, and so forth.”

“People will envy you to the extent that you start out with a group of people and you rise up the organization faster than them. Get over what your peers are thinking about you because your peers are also your competitors.”

“Personal growth and professional development require mostly being treated like an adult, which is pretty much the opposite of what happens in most workplaces. People need to be able to make decisions. To do that effectively, they need information and training in how to use it.”

“Point at solutions instead of at each other.”

“Possibly the biggest issue, however, is that performance appraisals focus managers attention on precisely the wrong thing: individual people.”

“Producing inspiration and other good feelings doesn’t last very long.”

“Profits are related to customer retention. Customer retention is related to employee retention. Employee retention may or may not be related to benefits, but benefits could be part of the package that causes people to stay and — by the way — engage in discretionary effort.”

“So, the three qualities of a workplace that would develop people would be information sharing, investing in the training of the workforce, and giving employees the ability to use their training and information to make decisions.”

“Successful organizations understand the importance of implementation, not just strategy, and, moreover, recognize the crucial role of their people in this process.”

“That information is worse than useless as, to the extent people believe it, they often wind up losing their jobs.”

“The class focuses intensely on making people more comfortable with doing a wider range of things – such as networking, self-promotion, building their own personal brand, cleverly acquiring resources, getting known – that they may have been less comfortable with before.”

“The single biggest barrier to effective leadership is, in my view, the leadership industry itself. Instead of telling people the skills and behaviors they need to be effective in getting things done, we tell them almost the opposite – blandishments about how we wish people would be, and how we wish workplaces were.”

“Told with enough persistence and conviction, what was once untrue can become true, in a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of way.”

“Trust is about keeping commitments, but in many instances, circumstances change and organizations therefore shed commitments, things such as retiree medical benefits, pension obligations, and even employees without much remorse or maybe even hesitation.”

“What those advocates are forgetting is that knowledge is only useful if you do something with it.”

“With respect to trust, people tell me that it is essential for organizational functioning. Maybe, but most surveys of trust find that trust in leaders is low and nonetheless, organizations role along quite nicely.”

“You are more likely to acquire power by narrowing your focus and applying your energies, like the sun’s rays, to a limited range of activities in a small number of domains.”

“You can’t be normal and expect abnormal returns.”

“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.”

Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer sits down for this Google talk to discuss Leadership failures and toxic workplaces.

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