People will always vie for power, often going to malicious lengths. Some will pursue power nobly, while others will lie, intimidate and even physically harm people in the process.
Fantasy stories may not spring to mind when pondering about power. However, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones details how intimidation, guile and honor can each build power.
Warning: content below this paragraph contains spoilers up to Season 7
House Lannister’s approach to power is one fraught with backstabbing and intimidation. Like her father, Cersei often threatens to kill those who oppose her. She uses fear to elicit obedience. When advisor Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish attempts to blackmail Cersei, mentioning her incest with her brother, Jaime Lannister, Cersei threatens Littlefinger. After he claims that “knowledge is power,”Cersei orders her guards to seize Littlefinger and “cut his throat.” Before anything ensues, she reneges on her order, joking she “changed her mind.” Cersei then retorts to the quaking Littlefinger that “power is power.”
Although Cersei could have executed her advisor, she opts to instead threaten him. She believes that in a state of fear, he will serve her best. There are however two flaws in these assumptions. Notably, intimidation erodes loyalty. This is evident when Cersei’s lover, Jaime, leaves his sister when she threatens to have her bodyguard, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, impale Jaime. In a similar vein, Tywin Lannister ordered the slaughter of every member of House Reyne, because they openly challenged the Lannisters.
As a result of this intimidation, few are truly loyal to the Lannisters. Intimidation only stems loyalty. Cersei and her father’s daunting reputation eventually inspire betrayal. Intimidating others in real life, similarly, is a surefire way to erode loyalty.
Unlike his sister, Tyrion Lannister uses diplomacy and guile to amass power. In Season 2 episode 3, Tyrion decides to determine which advisors he can trust after becoming hand of the king. He tells each of his advisors he will marry off Princess Myrcella Lannister to someone, but gives different names to each advisor. After meeting his advisors separately, Tyrion stresses that Cersei must be oblivious of his plans to wed Marcella. After Cersei snarls at her brother for pledging to marry off Marcella to one specific prince, Tyrion deems Pycelle untrustworthy. Tyrion had offered the prince’s name only to Pycelle.
In this small act, Tyrion was able to weed out a disloyal advisor who could have betrayed him in the future. Cunning can help individuals become powerful in social and work environments. While consistently lying is frowned upon, you should strive to handle problems artfully as how Tyrion discovered his threats.
The vertically-challenged Lannister will often charm others with humor, logic and mild praise while also stating his worth to the listener. Through this combination of persuasions, Tyrion becomes Hand of the Queen.
When Tyrion arrives in the palace room of Queen Daenerys Targaryen in Season 5 Episode 8, his encounter with the queen begins tensely. She questions if she should execute him given he is a Lannister — the enemy family of the Targaryens. Yet, Tyrion manages to placate Daenerys and garner her trust. He humorously asserts that he “is the greatest Lannister killer of our time” by killing his mother (through birth) and his father “through a bolt to the heart.” Tyrion then commends Daenerys’ ascent to the throne with meager resources, while also listing how his service as the king’s hand benefitted the Lannisters. In proving his effectiveness as the king’s hand along with his slight flattery, Tyrion establishes trust with Daenerys. Tyrion later becomes Daenerys’ Hand.
Despite threats of execution, Tyrion is able to explain his worth to the queen and eventually become her closest advisor. While others may have nervously begged for mercy or exaggerated their power, Tyrion instead spoke candidly. He admired Daenerys for her ascent to queen and was able to clarify how he was effective as hand of the king. If people can strive to explain how they can benefit whatever or whomever they seek to assist, they will be more persuasive.
When people contemplate how power is acquired, they rarely consider honor. Yet, society has consistently celebrated individuals with integrity (or those who claim to have it). The backers of Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders claim he has integrity. Supporters of the late president, George H. Bush, believed he was honorable. Jon Snow epitomizes this same integrity in Game of Thrones, which bolsters his power.
Even though Jon’s family, House Stark, may have suffered for their honor, Jon was able to become king of his people and unite the North. As Lord Commander, he decided to do what is morally ideal and shelter the Free Folk from the undead in Castle Black.
In spite of Jon’s honor costing his life, he managed to gain the loyalty of the Free Folk because he saved them. His honorable actions gave him an army. Although the interpretations of honor vary, deciding to do what is morally ideal will strengthen your reputation as a noble human being.
Jon’s avengement of the Red Wedding, which many Northern lords found to be a true display of honor, helps him earn the title of King of the North. As a result of winning The Battle of the Bastards, the Northern lords hail Jon as the “King of the North” for “avenging the Red Wedding.”In slaying the Boltons, Jon establishes his honor by avenging the massacre of his families and people. This amendment allows him to rise to become king.
Game of Thrones reveals that there are many ways to gain power — through intimidation, guile and diplomacy and honor. While Cersei Lannister manages to temporarily keep her subjects in line with intimidation, her methods erode loyalty. Her brother, Tyrion, uses guile and diplomacy to increase his power. He quickly weeds out disloyal advisors when he becomes Hand of the King and he employs a variety of methods to appeal to Daenerys Targaryen. Jon Snow relies on his honor to amass his power. The Stark’s morality and avengement of the Red Wedding cause the Northern lord to declare him “King of the North.”