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Power and Dependence

Power and Dependence
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I would like to continue the conversation about power with a deeper dive into the notion of dependence. Now to begin with, think of top 5 most influential, most powerful contacts in your network. Who are they? Write them down. And more importantly, what do you think makes them influential? Think about this.
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Now you could’ve approached this question in terms of formal authority or rank. In this case, you could have chosen your manager or perhaps your friend who is a high ranking governmental official. You could have chosen experts in their respective fields or perhaps you’re fortunate enough to know a celebrity, a famous athlete or a broadcaster, someone with a large network. All these are good options to begin to respond to that question. But let me provide another wrinkle to this. Let’s think about what defines a social relationship. A social relationship is defined by flow of benefits of some sort. Things need to flow for the relationship to exist. And imagine that Catherine and Hagen are coworkers.
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And Catherine provides Hagen with lots of benefits. She helps him with daily projects, political support, she offers valuable referrals from her network, and when you ask Hagan, he tells you that Katherine is actually very difficult to replace. There are few contacts in the workplace that would provide comparable benefits. But when you talk to Catherine, she tells you that Hagen is a jolly fellow and he tells really good jokes, but that’s about it. And as a result, he is easy to replace because there are other people on the floor who can tell equally good jokes. So who has more power in this relationship?
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It’s important to recognize that dependence asymmetry between Catherine and Hagen, gives Catherine substantially greater levels of informal power over Hagen. Hagen depends on Catherine to a great degree. She provides him with lots of benefits and she’s difficult to replace. Catherine, on the other hand, does not depend on Hagen at all. He provides her with very few benefits, and very easy to replace. And this dependence asymmetry is precisely what makes Catherine more powerful in the relationship. Because Hagen depends on her to a significantly greater degree. Than she depends on him. One way to apply the insights about power independence to your network, in a systematic way is to conduct a power audit.
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Start by listing top 10 most valuable contacts in your network, then for each of the contacts, assign a score from 0-10, reflecting the extent to which you depend on that contact, how much value the contact provides to you. And then, for each of the relationships, assign a score on a scale from 0-10, reflecting the extent to which a given contact depends on you. So this time, think about how much value you offer to that contact. So you might be looking at the matrix like this. Now there could be relationships, where you get a lot of value, a lot of benefits from your contacts, but you don’t give much back. In this case, you’re quite replaceable.
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You should also be aware that in these situations, such as in the relationships with John and Francisco over here, you’re more vulnerable. You’re in a position of power disadvantage, and as a result, people might take advantage of you. What my research done jointly with the colleague from shows, is that some of the most beneficial relationships, are those that are characterized by high mutual dependence. So those are relationships with Jennifer and Albert, where you depend on them to a significant degree. And they depend on you highly as well. We find that in these relationships, you transcend the pure economic logic. The logic of pure economic imperatives.
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It is no longer quip per quo, meaning I do this for you if you do this for me. These relationships develop very good vibrations that make them very lasting, very effective and very robust. You could also have some relationships where you hold a power advantage, such as you would have with Caroline and with Thomas. Those are the relationships where your contacts depend on you to significantly graded degree, compared to your dependence on them. And it might be tempting to utilize that power, to exploit these relationships for personal gain. Now I wanna warn you that there are both moral and economic reasons not to do so. The moral reasons are obvious. The economic ones are less so.
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It turns out that when you exploit a relationship, when you abuse that informal power, you get a bigger share of the pie, but the pie itself is rapidly shrinking. Now the idea in relationships is to collaborate and create value. And when you abuse that relationship, when you over exercise informal power, people get decommitted to the relationship. They get less engaged. And as a result value creation goes down. So think about this. You’re getting a bigger share of the pie but the pie itself is rapidly shrinking. And what our research shows is that the pie can shrink often much faster than you can grow your own share. And as a result, you can end up with a net loss.
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