Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, is one of the most influential contemporary thinkers in the field of management.
He has more than 150 articles and 14 books to his credit that cover many theoretical and practical issues, develop theories about the behavior of organizations, and widen the international panorama of studies on power and leadership. In short, a “guru” in this field.
Marco Tortoriello, Associate Dean of the SDA Bocconi Masters Division and Director of “Getting Things Done”, an Executive Program scheduled for November 2018.
They met during an informal dinner, and the result was an interesting interview.
MT: What are the main topics / challenges that managers need to be ready to face today?
JP: There are many challenges that leaders face today. First of all, trust in leaders is low and steadily declining, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. Second, as I said in my latest book, Dying for a Paycheck, many workplaces are really toxic and managers have to deal with a stressed and often ill workforce. Furthermore, as the Gallup surveys consistently show, 85% of employees are “disengaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, which means that only 15% are “engaged” in their jobs.
MT: How can they increase their likelihood of succeeding in meeting those challenges?
JP: In short, leaders need to become much more knowledgeable and rely more on evidence and less on their experience, which is a remarkably poor guide to practice. Otherwise, nothing will change.
MT: What would you recommend to a manager that has recently been appointed to a position of responsibility?
JP: Many, I dare say most, managers are remarkably unconnected to the evidence in front of them and the social science literature that would make them more effective in doing their jobs. That is one reason why management has not progressed in decades—consistently and persistently low levels of employee engagement, distrust in leaders, and weak business performance. Unlike medicine, which aspires to be more scientific in its practice and has, therefore, made remarkable progress, management remains largely unchanging. Therefore, what I would recommend to leaders would be:
1) become much more intellectually curious about the world of organizations and management;
2) read much more of the relevant research literature that will help you do your job better; and
3) try to practice evidence-based management—where decisions are based on facts, not on casual benchmarking or intuition.
SDA Bocconi School of Management