Cover of Who Really Matters by Art KleinerWho Really Matters (Amazon, Goodreads, Powells) puts forth the theory that central to every organization is a Core Group of people who really matter.

This post is part of a series summarizing the book and covers Part 1: The Reality of Organizations, Chapter 4: A Very Special Kind of Love. You may want to start with the introduction.

Chapter 4: A Very Special Kind of Love

This chapter describes what it’s like to be part of a Core Group, whereby the organization sees you as central to its fate and will do anything for you.

Core Group members are taken seriously in a way that few other people enjoy. They are invited to solve problems, even when they don’t have any special knowledge or skill. Their solutions work (everyone sees to that). Their virtues are publicly recognized and their mistakes unseen. They are routinely credited with the insights of others…. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, they enjoy the considerable perk of constantly being reminded that they are doing something important. Others are doing it with them, but it remains theirs. (p. 40)

And there’s a self-perpetuating pattern here: Other people make decisions and do things to serve you as a Core Group member because it’s advantageous to their careers because Core Group members wield the power to improve your status.

Moreover, it’s human nature to crave and accept the love an organization bestows upon you as a Core Group member:

It takes a person with an unusual caliber of mind and a remarkable willfulness to withstand an organization’s love. And most people don’t even see any reason to resist; indeed, those who start organizations are often motivated by the desire to have an organization in love with them for a change. (p. 41)

As with all love relationships, the reasons why a person is adored as a Core Group member may not be clear or even rational.

What’s Next?

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, a summary of Chapter 5: Power & Legitimacy, which explores the source and exchange of power and legitimacy between Core Group members and others in the organization.


Kleiner, Art. Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success. 1st ed. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2003.

This post is part of our Book Summary series in which we share summaries of books about leadership, governance, and community building. To discuss the book, leave a comment below or join our Goodreads group.


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