Power: A Struggle to the Top

Throughout history man has always struggled to get to the top.  But I have always wondered how and why do people end up in powerful positions?  Is a person more powerful based on the job title they have or is it because of the people that they know?  Also as I have been reading The Smartest Guys in the Room, I was appalled by some of the things the Enron executives were willing to do to get ahead of the others.  My paper will discuss control systems, in particular it will compare power in informal groups to power in formal organizations in relation to The Smartest Guys in the Room.  I will also look into authority and where it comes from.  In The Smartest Guys in the Room, many of the decisions were not made by Ken Lay, Enron’s CEO, but rather other higher level executives.  Where do they get their power and the authority to make these decisions? It seemed like most of the power the executives had started from informal group power and then grew into formal organizational power as they worked their way up the company.  Also, as all of these shady activities were occurring why did certain people go along with it?

Right now I know this seems like a lot of questions, but they will be developed into stronger ideas.  The topic also might be narrowed down more as I research these concepts more thoroughly.  Since I now have a direction for my paper, I plan on outlining specific examples of both types of power from the book.  Also, I will take a closer look at the concepts by researching specific references from Organizations and Organization by Scott and Davis.  In addition I will utilize the library’s online databases to search for the terms I plan on using.  I will also use this database to look into specific executives from Enron, in particular Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andrew Fastow, Rebecca Mark, and Cliff Baxter. As I narrow my topic, this information will be compiled into an outline that will allow me to evaluate the flow of ideas and see where more research should be done.

When looking at the course concept informal power (Scott and Davis, page 205), Tyler “proposed a social identification model suggesting that individuals conform primarily because of their interest in their social standing in the group.”  I decided to learn more about Tyler’s theory, so I looked at References in the back of Scott and Davis to see what works of Tyler’s were being referenced.  I found that Tyler was actually published in Social Psychology in Organizations: Advances in Theory and Research by Keith Murnighan.  I decided to do a google scholar search on this book to see how many sources it had and found that there were 266.  Many of these also had links to JStor through Bucknell so that I could read the full articles.  From doing this I was able to see reports of specific studies done that are connected to this research.

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3 Responses

  1. Get into the black!

  2. The social identification model goes a long way to answering your question about how informal power becomes authority. I would like to see you work more with his ideas and how others have tried to study them and the process. If social identification is more primal than other mechanisms for putting people in positions of authority, what does that do to the possibility for purely rational organization?

  3. […] Power: A Struggle to the Top […]

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