Developing Power in Game of Thrones

Reward Power and Coercive Power

Reward power comes from offering positive or negative rewards in exchange for cooperation.

Right off the bat we see a major source of power. The dragon. The dragon is a form of coercive power, but Dany uses it in an unexpected way. Instead of just giving the dragon up, or letting it torch everything, she uses the appearance of a trade to increase her power. She appears to reward the slaver for doing business with her. The appearance gets her control of the unsullied, which gain her even more coercive power.

This ability to leverage existing power with out losing it, is what makes her so formidable.

Information Power

Now we see her reveal another source of power that she has kept hidden. Dany understands their language. She uses this skill, which is a form of expert power, to build gather information she isn’t supposed to have in negotiation situations. Gaining information power can come from other areas, as we see later in the show. Spies, tricky questions, and careful observation all give characters information power.

Keep reading for a source of power you probably missed.

Legitimate Power

Legitimate power is power that comes from a sense of obligation, that people feel to your position. While it doesn’t seem to give her much here, this statement of who she is, carries more and more weight through out the series. As her power grows, so does the relevance of her title.

It is important to note that titles follow power. People don’t gain much power by directly gaining titles. But those who gain power, are often given titles, as an outward showing of an increase in their power. These titles solidify their existing power.

Referent Power

Here we see another quick element of power, that you might have missed. Do you see her face? She is clearly resentful towards the slaver. She is already emotionally on Dany’s side. This is called Referent power. Referent power comes when you gain influence over people through similarity, respect, connection, or affiliation. You can loosely think of Referent power as “liking.”

A subtle way she built this power is by simply using the translator. Dany clearly didn’t use the translator, but using her made her feel useful and valuable. By making people feel useful, valuable, and respected, they will be more likely to like you. Liking is particularly useful in persuasive situations.

Later, she releases the slaves, buying her even more referent power. She leverages this history of freeing slaves in later conquests.

Expert Power

Finally she reveals her expert power, or her ability to use a talent or skill to bring about a result she desires. Dany knows only she can command the dragon. Others may try, but they can’t control them like a Targaryen.

This ability gives her even more power than you might first expect. She regains the dragon, but she also gains the trust of her followers. They doubted her decision to trade a dragon for an army, but now they know she has skills and knowledge that they don’t. This display of strategic ability gains her respect, which will smooth out the relationship between her orders being given, and being followed.


Never give most of your present power to someone in exchange for power you might not fully understand.

Similar Articles

Leave a Comment