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 contrarian, life long learner, and devoted skeptic, 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. Its producers have the ability to communicate boldly provocative ideas and desires that lie latent inside every single one of us, but we rarely decide to face 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.
The omnipresence 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 biases. A meaning that is skeptical and forces me to view power and influence from a holistic perspective.
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, to finding the true essence of power and influence. People like Robert Greene, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Daniel Goleman, among others.
Their books helped me assume control over my life and character, understand myself and the reasoning behind my actions, and ultimately become a person that understands power and influence and also fights it whenever the circumstance demands it.
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 many 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 the subtle rules that comprise 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 revealed 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.
This book is an all-time classic that will provide extreme insight into the human condition.
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 calamities in his life and having faced 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 our perception allows us to react in more audacious ways.
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”
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 this book in depth.
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.
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.”
With over 2500 reviews on Amazon, over 15 million copies sold, and a self-explanatory title, I think we all get it. Dale Carnegie is considered one of the godfathers of self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, and interpersonal skills.
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 can make one extremely likable 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 stand out in social settings. These principles are widely used by marketers and business people and constitute 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….”
Although this book is geared towards men, it can definitely be eye-opening for anyone.
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.
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 evolving beyond imposed social norms and reptilian brain impulses.
Daniel Goleman’s Golden Triad – Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, Focus
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 understand them and tame them for your own good and for the good of those close to you.
Social intelligence is the book that will give you extreme insight into social dynamics and it will help you understand social behaviors and their origins. Receiving this knowledge will help you recalibrate your social behavior; 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 deals with 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 effectively 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.
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 in 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 was one of the most influential business people. He became this person through his products, his innovative approach, his addiction to perfection, his extremely charismatic mindset, and also 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, 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 on the way you deal with influence and power.
30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses
“The challenging nature of the cosmos can only be tamed by making the concept of challenge an integral constituent of one’s existance.”
Okay, so I’m a little biased about this one. This is my best selling ebook and a project that has impacted thousands of lives.
Power and influence are challenging concepts.
The world, as a whole, is a challenging playground. One needs to internalize this challenging nature of the cosmos and embed it in his or her daily processes.
Through the 30 challenges that I propose in the ebook, one can become more self-aware, more resilient, more confident.
And this is definitely a powerful endeavor worth pursuing.
Get this book: Ebook
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