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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: January 2010

5 - Power in cooperation and competition: Understanding the positive and negative faces of power


In the office in which I work there are five people of whom I am afraid. Each of these five people is afraid of four people (excluding overlaps), for a total of twenty and each of these twenty people is afraid of six people, making a total of one hundred and twenty people who are feared by at least one person. Each of these one hundred and twenty people is afraid of the other one hundred and nineteen, and all of these one hundred and forty-five people are afraid of the twelve men at the top who helped found and build the company and now own and direct it.

Joseph Heller, Something Happened.

The men who make power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.

John F. Kennedy, October 26, 1963

Our task is not to learn where to place power; it is how to develop power […] Genuine power can only be grown, it will slip from every arbitrary hand that grasps it; for genuine power is not coercive control, but co-active control. Coercive power is the curse of the universe; co-active power, the enrichment and advancement of every human soul.

Mary Parker-Follett (1924)

Power has traditionally been considered a destructive force in organizations, corrupting those with power and demoralizing those without it (Ashforth 1997; Kipnis 1976; Rudolph and Peluchette 1993).

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