Some spoiler-free (I promise!) musings on leadership lessons from Game of Thrones
Last Sunday marked the season finale of Game of Thrones, and now I join the millions of other fans who anxiously have to wait a grueling NINE months for the next season. I was late jumping on the GoT band wagon, but recently binge-watched the first five-and-a-half seasons, ending season six with the rest of the world.
There are so many things I love about the show – the array of fiercely strong female leads, the dramatic and vastly different geographic settings, the stunning costumes. But perhaps best of all? I love that I can draw lots of leadership lessons from the various characters and their successes and failures.
I’m certainly not the first person to comment on the parallels between the kingdom of Westeros and the boardroom. Heck, there’s even a book written on the topic. Part of what makes the show so wildly popular is that even its strongest characters have very human flaws. As a business leader, it’s fascinating to watch how leaders in the show emerge, grow, stumble, and grow some more. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
Leadership Lesson: The best kind of leaders aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
Jon Snow is perhaps the best known leader from the show – albeit a reluctant one. But whether he likes it or not, people on both sides of the wall feel inspired to follow his lead. One big reason? He’s not afraid to do the dirty work. You know that if Jon Snow is asking you to head into battle, he’s going to be right there fighting with you. Jon Snow is the type of leader who would be at the office at 3am working on a big proposal right alongside his team. While his hands-on approach hasn’t been enough to win over everyone’s support, it goes a heck of a long way, especially when fighting against pretty ugly odds.
Leadership Lesson: While any truly inspirational leader must hold firm to their beliefs about right vs. wrong, they must also be open to feedback from their team and course correct when needed.
Dany, as she’s affectionately known, started out as a pawn in someone else’s game – a princess married off to a savage tribal leader to build an alliance. But as the show has continued, Dany has emerged as one of the most powerful leaders in the land, and she’s built a massive – and massively committed – army. How has she grown so successful? Dany is the embodiment of values-based leadership. She is determined to end slavery, empower the powerless, and break the system of feuding families all making a power play for the throne. She helps people understand her vision and the role they play in achieving it. Her stirring speeches have inspired thousands to join her to fight enemies known and unknown (of course, her dragons and a few super-human skills have helped too). Sure, she’s made her fair share of mistakes along the way, but what I admire most about Dany is her willingness to trust her advisors and admit when she’s wrong. I see big things for her in season 7!
Leadership Lesson: Stand up for what you believe and make your voice heard.
Tyrion is hands-down the show’s most surprising (and my favorite!) leader. In the first season, Tyrion was basically a lazy, entitled party animal, and I kept finding myself wondering, “Why is this guy so popular among fans??” But as the battle for the throne has dragged on, Tyrion has proven to be so much more than he initially seemed – a brilliant military strategist, a fighter and protector, and trusted advisor. Tyrion’s best leadership quality? He stands up for what he believes. Even when it’s meant putting his own life on the line, Tyrion speaks up for what he believes, and isn’t afraid to share his opinion, even with the most powerful leaders.
And now, I’m off to spend my summer diving into the Game of Thrones book series. After all, I need something to help me get through the next nine months!