Law 11: Learn To Keep People Dependent On You

The 48 Laws Of Power Summary Series


“To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.”

Transgression Of The Law

Sometime in the Middle Ages, a mercenary soldier (also known as condottiere), whose name has not been recorded, saved the town of Siena from a foreign aggressor.

The city was extremely grateful for this act, however no amount of money or honor could possibly compare in value to the preservation of a city’s liberty. The people thought of making him the lord, they said that wasn’t enough to recompense him. At last, one of them stood before the assembly and called to debate to this matter exclaiming, “Let us kill him and then worship him as our patron saint.” And so they did.


In another short story, The Count of Carmagnola was one of the bravest and most successful of all the condottieri. He served the city of Venice and eventually found himself convicted on some trumped-up charge where he was eventually beheaded before a horrified crowd who could not understand how his fate had changed so drastically.


Reading stories like these make me appreciate how thankful I am for living in this century. Our modern day ‘condottierescome in the form of military heroes and do not find the same fate of past condottieres, instead they are celebrated and praised, rightfully so. Many of the great condottieri of Renaissance Italy suffered the same fate as the patron saint of Siena and the Count of Carmagnola: They won battle after battle for their employers only to find themselves banished, imprisoned, or executed.

The problem was not ingratitude; it was that there were so many other condottieris as able and valiant as they were. They were easily replaceable. Nothing was lost by killing them.

No one was dependent on them because there was such a large endless supply of them. It was like sheep replacing more sheep.

Such is the fate of those who do not make others dependent on them. Sooner or later someone comes along who can do the job as well as they can — someone younger, fresher, less expensive, less threatening.

Be the only one who can do what you do, and make the fate of those who hire you so entwined with yours that they cannot possibly get rid of you.

Now in most cases we’re not going to get murdered or executed for not making others dependent on us. It is safe to say we can act as a modern day condottieri and not suffer death. But now the stakes are lower people are paying less attention and care to their behaviors implications.

One of the problems with condottier’s was they weren’t the only ones doing what they were doing. They weren’t unique. It was a great challenge to separate themselves from the pack. Most don’t realise the importance of that lesson in itself. If something is easily replaceable, it’s value diminishes. This can be applied to relationships, cars, technology, food — everything and anything.

I recall having a part time job in retail for about a year. With only a couple days of notice the store shut down. As a result, all the sales assistants lost their job. We all had a skill set and unique personality that provided value to the organisation. But if one of us were really exceptional at our jobs, than it is safe to assume they would have done everything possible to keep us within the orgainsation one way or another. Well this happened. Our store manager was given a position at a new store in the city. He had a certain skill set and range of experiences that we did not have. This provided a unique value that outweighed the cost of loosing him. Most will eventually come to experience losing their job. One difference between those who lose it and those who keep it, is a unique set of skills and experiences you hold that others don’t. That in itself is the reason you usually get jobs and can be the reason in the end why you may lose it.

To further illiterate this point, imagine lining up 10 guys side by side who all looked superficially the same.

Now let’s get a woman to pick which man she believes offers her the most value. She’s probably going to pick the one who is the most unique — who offers her the most value. What characteristics make them stand out? Maybe one possesses a certain humility or an air of confidence that another doesn't. Those qualities are going to separate you from other’s.

Keys To Power

People don’t want to waste those precious resources. If you have developed a dependency of possessing something most people don’t have, then you have secured power and influence over others.

“Louis XI had a deep love for astrology. He kept a court astrologer whom he admired, until one day the man predicted that a lady of the court would die within eight days. When the prophecy came true, Louis was terrified, thinking that either the man had murdered the woman to prove his accuracy or that he was so versed in his science that his powers threatened Louis himself. In either case he had to be killed.

One evening Louis summoned the astrologer to his room, high in the castle. Before the man arrived, the king told his servants that when he gave the signal they were to pick the astrologer up, carry him to the window, and hurl him to the ground, hundreds of feet below. The astrologer soon arrived, but before giving the signal, Louis decided to ask him one last question.”

“You claim to understand astrology and to know the fate of others, so tell me what your fate will be and how long you have to live.”

“I shall die just three days before Your Majesty,” the astrologer replied. The king’s signal was never given.

“The man’s life was spared. Louis XI not only protected his astrologer for as long as he was alive, he lavished him with gifts and had him tended by the finest court doctors. The astrologer survived Louis by several years, disproving his power of prophecy but proving his mastery of power.”

He did this by creating an undeniable air of dependency through the use of fear.

One last warning: Do not imagine that your master’s dependence on you will make him love you. In fact, he may resent and fear you. But, as Machiavelli said, it is better to be feared than loved. Fear you can control; love, never. Depending on an emotion as subtle and changeable as love or friendship will only make you insecure. Better to have others depend on you out of fear of the consequences of losing you than out of love of your company.

This is exactly what the astrologer did.

To me, love is an emotion more volatile and dynamic than fear. I see fear being more linear and straight forward. Hence the use of fear can be more reliable than love or admiration in the realm of power and politics.


Isolating yourself and becoming the only one at the top has its own set of risks and dangers. We are always dependent on someone or something — I believe it to be an inevitable characteristic of human life.

“Better to place yourself in a position of mutual dependence, then, and to follow this critical law rather than look for its reversal. You will not have the unbearable pressure of being on top, and the master above you will in essence be your slave, for he will depend on you.”

Originally Posted

Self reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour.

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