These Are the 10 Books on Power and Influence Everyone Needs to Read
Let’s kick off this article with a small clip from one of my all time favorite TV shows – House of cards.
As a life long learner, social chameleon, devoted skeptic and ethical hedonist, I am always interested in TV shows that offer much more than just mere entertainment. I am constantly after TV shows that try to stray from the banality of commercial guidelines and focus more on communicating bold and controversial messages. Even if these messages flirt with the idea of excessive honesty and cruel candidness.
That’s chiefly the main reason I am fond of House of Cards to the point of evangelism. Because of its producers’ ability to communicate boldly provocative ideas and desires that lie latent inside every single one of us but we rarely decide to pursue them. Such an idea is the idea of power and influence that is presented throughout the TV show, while the life of Francis Underwood is unfolded in our screen in an artistic way.
Even though it is quite a controversial topic in our pursuit of a happy and purposeful life, the importance of power and influence while we try to survive and flourish in our existential paradigm cannot be understated.
Whether their impact is manifested through the way we communicate with our peers, subordinates, and bosses or in the way we interact with our partners, friends, and relationships, power and influence are extremely valuable tools that define the level of success you seek in these interactions.
The importance and necessity of these two forces is what inspired me to write this article. I have tasted both the bitter and the sweet side of power and influence and therefore I constantly try to determine their accurate meaning in my life. A meaning that is not defined by generalities and despotisms. A meaning that is skeptical and forces me to view power and influence from a holistic angle. A meaning that helps me ponder, speculate and eventually internalize these two concepts.
Books on Power and Influence
In my pursuit of defining the absolute meaning of power and influence and their role in our lives, I had an entourage. An entourage of writers who dedicated years and some of them even their entire lives in finding the true essence of power and influence. People like Rober Greene, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Daniel Goleman, among others.
Their books helped me assume control of my life and character, understand myself and the reasoning behind my actions and ultimately become a person that uses power and influence to regain his respect, boost his self-esteem and protect himself from manipulative behaviors.
48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
“When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity… you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others”
There is not much to be said about Robert Greene’s masterpiece. I have referenced it here countless times and I consider it the cornerstone of power and influence. In 480 pages Robert Greene manages to dissect the idea of power and present all those subtle rules that assemble it in a masterful way.
I won’t lie to you. When I first got my hands on the book, although its narrative absorbed me almost instantly, it also awakened feelings of scare and insecurity inside me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face and digest the truths this book was revealing in such a raw and direct way. I guess what made them so frightening was their amoral simplicity. “Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit,” “Discover each man’s thumbscrew,” “Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary,” “Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark,” to name but a few.
The laws cull their principles from many great schemers throughout history, from Sun-Tzu to Talleyrand, from Casanova to con man Yellow Kid Weil.
Whether you are hungry for power or you are just looking to get some more information on the topic, this book is an all-time classic that will provide extreme insight into human reasoning and behaviors.
The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent
“Your fears are a kind of prison that confines you within a limited range of action. The less you fear, the more power you will have and the more fully you will live.”
Who could have thought that a masterful writer like Robert Greene would ever decide to collaborate with a rapper who is famous for songs like “Window Shopper,” “P.I.M.P.” and “In da Club.” Well, in 50 Cent’s case there is definitely more than meets the eye.
Having endured a lot of “shit-storms” in his life and facing the ugly face of power while trying to ascend to the top, 50 Cent learned life’s probably most valuable lesson – Fear Nothing. The principle concept of the book centers on the negative effects that fear can have, in particular, anxiety and paralysis of the will, and how reframing of our perception can allow us to react in more productive ways.
Although you should take the book’s lessons with a grain of salt because 50 Cent has been accused in the past of drug dealing, misogyny and deploying stereotypes of African-American men to get into a position of power, for me the 50th law epitomizes the idea of power and success in a magnificent way.
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”
Machiavellianism is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
“The employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”
Having connected your name with words such as cunning and duplicity is not a small thing. Upon reading “The Prince,” however, it never really occurred to me that Niccolo Machiavelli would have a problem with such a description.
In this 80-page treatise, the writer sets out the basic rules that need to be followed in order to acquire and maintain political power. This book is usually suggested to students in their first political science class and it is presumed that one can never be a successful politician if one doesn’t understand the totality of this book.
In The Prince, Machiavelli emphasizes the need for realism, as opposed to idealism. He does not explain what he thinks the best ethical or political goals are, except the control of one’s own fortune, as opposed to waiting to see what chance brings. We share the same ideas, so he rightfully earned his place in this list.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
I don’t want to waste your time with a summary of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” With over 2500 reviews on Amazon, over 15 million copies sold, and a self-explanatory title, I think you all get it. Dale Carnegie is considered one of the godfathers of self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training and interpersonal skills. The majority of the ideas suggested in this blog are strongly influenced by his writings and views.
The core idea communicated through “How to win friends and influence people” is that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior toward them.
Dale Carnegie explains the main principles of interpersonal communication, which if comprehended correctly, can make you extremely likable and oftentimes extremely desirable in the eyes of others. He suggests principles like:
- Appealing to the other person’s highest ideals
- Remembering the other person’s name
- Letting the other person do most of the talking
- Speaking in terms of the other person’s interests
- Allowing the other to save face, by “throwing down a challenge,”
Integrating these tactics in your personality can eventually help you make a friend out of just about anyone.
Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
In his seminal work, Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, introduces us to the six pillars of ethical persuasion:
- Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor,
- Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image.
- Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing.
- Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts.
- Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like.
- Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand.
If one carefully understands the reasoning behind these 6 pillars and manages to successfully internalize them, one can definitely gain advantage in social settings. Those principles are widely used by marketers and business people and are the foundations upon any salesperson can build a successful career.
The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
“Every moment waited is a moment wasted….”
Well, I guess many of you will be wondering what does a book that answers questions like “What is your true purpose in life?”, “What do women really want?” and “What makes a good lover?” have to do with this list. Well, everything.
In “The Way of the Superior Man,” David Deida explores the most important issues in a man’s life and offers a practical guidebook for living a masculine life of integrity, authenticity, and freedom. The main reason I decided to add the book on this list, however, is because of an imperative idea I try to evangelize through my writings: One can never be a great leader and influencer of others if one doesn’t learn to be the master of oneself first.
When a man reads “The Way of the Superior Man,” he takes the first step towards developing a concrete understanding of his needs, desires, and probably his whole existence. Once this understanding is achieved, then and only then he will be able to start moving forward and evolve beyond imposed social norms and reptilian brain impulses.
Daniel Goleman’s Golden Triad – Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, Focus
I don’t want to know what my life would be like if I hadn’t been introduced to Daniel Goleman’s masterpieces. All three of the aforementioned titles can have a huge impact in the way one perceives, understands, analyses, and ultimately performs within social environments.
Emotional Intelligence is the ultimate guide to help you understand yourself and your emotions. It is a combination of scientific discoveries, real life examples and hands-on approach solutions to help you discover the reasoning behind your emotions. Its ultimate purpose is to help you handle them and tame them for your own good and for the good of those close to you.
Social intelligence can be described as the social chameleon’s handbook. It is the book that will give you extreme insight into social life and it will help you understand social behaviors and their origins. Receiving this knowledge will help you stand out among others; it will also protect you, inspire you and reveal previously hidden insights into human behavior.
Focus is the most recent one of the three and it focuses mainly on the importance of attention in the way we perform. All our activities, from work and hobbies to the way we communicate and cooperate with others, can’t be performed at high levels and standards if focus is not present. The book suggests new discoveries in the field and it lays the foundations for a redesigned life characterized by excellence and constant growth.
I can confidently argue that if every person in this world would invest the time to read these three books, our world would definitely be a better place.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
“One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are.”
When it comes to acquiring knowledge at any field, a great way to go is to learn what successful people do or did in their lives and apply these lessons to your own life.
Steve Jobs is one of the most influential persons of the last 20 years or so. He became this person through his products, his innovative approach, his addiction to perfection, his extremely charismatic mindset but most of all through his attitude towards influence and power. Being the founder and CEO of the most powerful company in the world is certainly an achievement that cannot be ignored.
Walter Isaacson in Steve Job’s biography, which is based on more than forty interviews with Jobs, conducted over two years, describes the life of a man whose searingly intense personality revolutionized the way the world works and evolves. This book will give you previously hidden insight into the real Steve Jobs and it will help you discover important lessons on innovation, character, leadership, and values.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
Written around 500BC by high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician Sun Tzu, this short but masterfully written handbook, is the most inspirational warfare manual you will ever read.
Folded into this small package are compact views on resourcefulness, momentum, cunning, the profit motive, flexibility, integrity, secrecy, speed, positioning, surprise, deception, manipulation, responsibility, and practicality.
The ancient Chinese master strips away all the familiar trappings of war – the warriors, weapons, forts, and tactics – to reveal the essence of conflict and how to win.
War is ugly, dirty, brutal, wasteful and expensive. That is the reality of it. Let’s not pretend otherwise. All the messages communicated in this book, however, will help you dissect this reality into small pieces of wisdom that can find immediate applicability in they way you use influence and power.
Speak Like a Leader
“One can never be a great leader if one doesn’t first learn to be the master of oneself.”
Okay, so I’m a little biased about this one. This is my first book since I first decided to start my initiative and also the work I am most proud of. This is a book for any person that wants to dramatically improve his social skills, master the art of conversation and eventually become a person of influence and power.
In an age of social and communicational stagnation, even though our forms of communication have evolved dramatically, the current oversimplification of our everyday processes and a lack of ambition when it comes to pursuing more deep and meaningful conversations with others have led us to dismiss the importance of the most fundamental skill that every leader must master: learning to speak in a simple yet influential way.
Leaders know how to speak well because they speak in a way that immediately gets people interested in what they have to say; in a way that evokes the right emotions and leaves people waiting, agonizingly eager, for the next words to come out of their mouth; in a way that makes them more relatable and empathic; in a way that makes people believe that what they are saying is of immense value to them.
The next leaders won’t seek value from others. The next leaders will be the ones who will first find value within themselves, and then offer it to others. “Speak Like A Leader” teaches you exactly this. Learning to speak well is a skill that anyone can master, and is the most powerful way to communicate your message, discover your inner leader and make an impact in today’s loud world.
There you have it. The 10 books on power and influence everyone needs to read (12 if you count all three from Daniel Goleman). If you are a regular reader of the blog, you have probably realized by now that I am a preacher of growth and evolution.
Even though knowledge never ends, these 10 books are a great starting point and will always be a great reference point whenever you want to reevaluate your progress.
There are a ton more great books on power and influence out there and more great books from young and aspiring writers will be constantly released. Have your eyes open because we will be mentioning them in our future posts.
Finally In your personal quest for power, we strongly recommend starting our “30 Challenges-30 Days-Zero Excuses” project. You will adopt great habits that will help you improve your influence, persuasion and social intelligence.
Till next time.
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