Lord Varys, Game of Thrones
“Any fool with a bit of luck can find himself born into power. But earning it for yourself that takes work”.
There’s no way around it; I’m Game of Thrones obsessed. The irony is that my sister watched it for seven seasons whilst I ‘poo-pooed’ and commented from the sidelines dismissing it as fantastical drivel that doesn’t serve a purpose past entertainment and occasionally dark entertainment at that. I stood proud my holier than thou opinion until she asked me to watch just one episode. Following that first episode of season seven, I promptly locked myself in my apartment every weekend for six weeks until I caught up.
It turns out truth isn’t stranger than fiction but for the most part, radically aligned to it.
I soon realised there was far more to Game of Thrones than meets the fantastical eye. Indeed perhaps the reason it’s proved so obsessively popular is that it appeals to our human nature; our desire for power, our desire for revenge, our desire to see justice done and our desire to lead and believe we can have an impact on the world greater than ourselves.
It shows us a range of characters who embody and reflect our own highlighting our innate nature with the ability to profoundly impact positively or negatively according to how we harness them. It was the recent and notorious episode five that caused me to reflect on the leadership lessons and insights that GoT so richly provides.
Whilst I openly confess to admiring Daenerys’ ability to ride a dragon in battle persuing absolutely her quest to rule the seven kingdoms whilst still looking drop dead gorgeous, I’m sure you’ll agree post episode five that she’s let her thirst for revenge and power override her ability to lead with a balance of logic and empathy. There are a number of South African and global leaders who could closely bare this description, but the focus of this article is indeed what does GoT reveal about your leadership style?
Of course this begs the question
“What are the qualities of a leader”?
This question errs on the existential and there are as many variations in answers as there were white walkers in the battle at Winterfell but for the most part, if GoT shows us anything, it’s that all leaders embody primarily influence over others.
All good leaders, irrespective of agenda possess the ability to produce results whilst great leaders additionally embody empathy, accountability, authenticity, adaptability and the ability to leverage collective strengths. Great leaders recognise that leadership is a systemic issue rather than a self-focused one. I suspect this is what may lead to Daenerys’ downfall but then again the producers of GoT have surprised me in every episode so let me not make any preemptive predictions. The fact remains that is a John versus Daenerys final episode.
John doesn’t want “the position” as he’s reiterated numerous times but we all know he’s the best person for the job. He’s got the interests of his family and the people in his heart and who better to lead the people than someone who’s been voted for the people by the people with the ability unite forces, get things done and rule in fairness?
Without doubt he embodies the qualities of a great leader but so too does Tyrion, does he not? Despite his seeming ‘subservient’ position he has the ability to influence those in a position of power greater than him. He embodies empathy, the ability to lead strategically, to adapt and to leverage the strength of others in addition to his own.
Are we then, irrespective of our position, not all leaders with the ability to be great leaders if we so desire? We think of leaders as ‘those’ in charge but do we not all posses an ability and indeed a responsibility to lead?
What does Game of Thrones reveal about your leadership style?
Whilst the characters from GoT are intricately woven and rich in depth, there’s no doubt that each of the major characters embody a particular leadership trait. What comes to mind when you consider these prominent characters?
- Ned Stark
- John Snow
- Cersei Lannister
- Sansa Stark
- Arya Stark
- Tyrion Lannister
- Daenerys Targaryen
Perhaps you thought of leadership through action for Ned Stark? Humility with power for John Snow?
What about your own leadership characteristics? Take our survey and in our follow up article “Leadership Lessons from GoT” we’ll reveal the results;
Speaking of reveals…
The big reveal
This week GoT fans from around the world are all eagerly waiting for John, Arya and Sansa’s post Dragonian apocalyptic response in the final episode of the last season in what can only be described as one of the most prolific series of all times.
From someone who almost missed this phenomenal series I must confess that watching all eight seasons serves as one of the most solid lessons in leadership and human behaviour I’ve encountered.
Until next time
Lisa Steingold is Head of Marketing for Metaco Consulting, a subsidiary of the Comair Group. Human behaviour has always fascinated her and in the connected economy believes that leadership, people and technology matter now more than ever before.