Dependecy: The key to power


The most important aspect of power is that it is a function of dependence. In this section, we show how an understanding of dependency is central to furthering your understanding of power itself.

The General Dependency Postulate

Let’s begin with a general postulate:

The greater B’s dependency on A, the greater the power A has over B. When you possess anything require but that you alone control, you make them dependent on you and, therefore, you gain power over them. Dependency, then, is inversely proportional to the alternative sources of supply. If something is plentiful, possession of it will not increase your power. If everyone is intelligent, intelligence gives no special advantage.

Similarly, among the superrich, money is no longer power. But, as the old saying goes “In the land off the blind, the one-eyed man is king�. If you can create a monopoly by controlling information, prestige, or anything that others crave, they become dependent on you. Conversely, the more you can expand your options, the less power you place in the hands of others. This explains, for example, why most organizations develop multiple suppliers rather than give their business to only one. It also explains why so many of us aspire to financial independence. Financial independence reduces the power that others can have over us.

Dependency is increased when the resource you control is important, scarce, and non substitutable.


If nobody wants what you’ve got, it’s not going to create dependency. To create dependency, therefore, the thing(s) you control must be perceived as being important. Organizations, for instance, actively seek to avoid uncertainly. We should therefore, expect that the individuals or groups who can absorb an organization’s uncertainty will be perceived as controlling an important resources. For instance, a study of industrial organizations found that the marketing departments in these firms were consistently rated as the powerful. It was concluded by the researcher that the most critical uncertainty facing these firms was selling their products. This might suggest that engineers, as a group, would be more powerful at Honda than at Procter& Gamble.

These inferences appear to be generally valid. An organization such as Honda, which is heavily technology-oriented, is highly dependent on its engineers to maintain its products’ technical advantages and quality. And, at Matsushita, engineers are clearly a powerful group. At Procter & Gamble, marketing is the name of the game, and marketers are the most powerful occupational group.


As noted previously, if something is plentiful, possession of it will not increase your power. A resources needs to be perceived as scarce to create dependency.

This can help to explain how low-ranking members in an organization who have important knowledge not available to high-ranking members gain power over the high-ranking members. Possession of a scarce resource in this case, important knowledge makes the high-ranking member dependent on the low-ranking member. This also helps to make sense out of behaviors of low-ranking members that otherwise might seem illogical, such as destroying the procedure manuals that describe how a job is done, refusing to train people in their jobs or even to show others exactly what they do, creating specialized language and terminology that inhibit others from understanding their jobs, or operating in secrecy so an activity will appear more complex and difficult than it really is.

Ferruccio Lamborghini, the guy who created the exotic super cars that continue to carry his name, understood the importance of scarcity and used it to his advantage during World War II. Lamborghini was in Rhodes with the Italian army. His superiors were impressed with his mechanical skills, as he demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to repair tanks and cars that no one else could fix. After the war he admitted that his ability was largely due to having been the first person on the island to receive the repair manuals, which he memorized and then destroyed so as to become indispensable.

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