The Empowered Manager | Peter Block

Summary of: The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work
By: Peter Block


Dive into the world of positive political skills for empowerment with Peter Block’s acclaimed book, ‘The Empowered Manager: Positive Political Skills at Work’. This summary will enlighten you on the key aspects of empowerment, such as the importance of vision, courage, autonomy, and overcoming the urge for dependency. You’ll discover the significance of a service-driven vision and challenges posed by bureaucracy, negative politics, and the vicious cycle of patriarchy, self-interest, manipulation, and dependency. Learn how adopting an entrepreneurial mindset and practicing autonomy can lead to a more engaged, effective, and successful work environment.

Empowerment – A Call for Courage

The concept of empowerment has become a prevalent organizational objective, but not many companies have been able to harness its power effectively. Empowerment demands freedom and respect, and it is crucial for organizations to act on what they say and avoid using it as yet another management fad. The enemy of high-performing systems is the feeling of helplessness and, in a deeper sense, it is impossible to empower others. Empowerment is a way of working and requires courage to overcome the trade-off between security and autonomy. Bureaucracy is the antithesis of empowerment, and it is essential to take responsibility for reshaping the organization to counter this mindset. Middle managers find themselves living on the firing line and need to overcome the fear of visibility and responsibility by acting responsibly. The core of entrepreneurship is autonomy, which demands courage. As a manager, setting an example of empowerment by living it is the way to get others to follow.

Empowerment in Organizational Politics

Organizational politics can be nefarious and destructive, involving manipulation of people, situations, and information for personal gain. Recognizing telltale signs of negative politics is easy, but understanding one’s own behavior is not. Self-knowledge is the first step to empowerment. Abandoning dependency and taking control like an entrepreneur is essential to achieving empowerment. Choosing greatness, courage, and autonomy are the best long-range decisions, but some situations may require maintenance, caution, and dependency. However, such situations are unhealthy and should be avoided. Becoming positively political means acting as if the whole organization is your own.

The Bureaucratic Cycle

The book discusses the stages of the “bureaucratic cycle” that lead to the current of organizational bureaucracy. This cycle includes patriarchy, where control comes from the top, “myopic self-interest,” where managers link success to upward mobility and financial rewards over service, manipulation, where autocracy and ambition encourage manipulative behavior, and dependency, which reinforces the vicious cycle of patriarchy, self-interest, and manipulation. The book critiques this cycle, arguing that it creates unhealthy definitions of success and undermines true service and meaningful work.

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