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5 Leadership Lessons (Game of Thrones edition)

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07 Apr 2015

As the fifth season of Game of Thrones approaches next week,I thought it was only appropriate to put myself through emotional and psychological torture by replaying seasons one to four again.

What occurred to me as I watched characters murdering one another, battling it out for the Iron Throne and vying for power in Westeros,is that many of the figures depicted fit certain leadership archetypes. Indeed,leadership is a prominent topic that repeatedly crops up and characters often question what it means to be a brilliant or terrible ruler. So let's take alook at some of the leaders that are portrayed on Game of Thrones (beware, this contains spoilers!:  

Robb Stark (The Idealist)- After the unlawful murder of his father, Eddard Stark, Robb rallies together warriors and fights to establish The North as an independent state away from Kingslanding. With the aid of his idealism and ambitious plans of a world free from the Lannisters, it seems the young wolf is unstoppable as he wins battle after battle. Despite this, Robb certainly cannot win the war.

Seeking the alliance of Walder Frey, Robb agrees that in exchange for safe passage across a river on Frey's land, Robb would marry one of his daughters. However, Robb instead marries for love, leading to one of the most memorable scenes in Game of Thrones; The Red Wedding which sees Robb, his pregnant bride, his mother and entire army slaughtered at the hands of Walder Frey. 

So what can we learn from Robb's grisly death? Whilst the young Stark may have the vision and the ambition to gain independence for The North, his ultimate failing is his inability to maintain a simple business relationship. Robb instead breaks his alliance, thus leading him on the downward path to failure. It's a cruel reminder that whilst a leader may appear to work alone, maintaining relationships is crucial in delivering success.

Daenerys Targaryen (TheDemocrat) - Since escaping the clutches of her suffocating brother,enduring an arranged marriage and losing the man she loves, the exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen has come a long way. She vows to "fight justice with justice” by leading through a democratic style. With the help of her council members, Daenerys successfully conquers Slavers Bay, gaining the trust of the numerous slaves she frees. What's more, Daenerys takes the time to listen to each and every one of her subjects - she's accessible to everyone. However, she sometimes lacks trust in her advisors.

What can we learn from The Mother of Dragons then? By gaining the trust of her subjects through an open line of communication, Daenerys perfectly manages to turn subordinates into followers, making her a force to be reckoned with.  On the other hand, as her power grows, she takes on more responsibility, unable to delegate and micro-manage and perhaps biting off more than she can chew.

Joffrey Baratheon (TheDictator) - Spoiled, manic and tyrannical - Joffrey rules in direct contrast to Daenerys. Whilst Joffrey is a ruler, that doesn't necessarily make him a leader and his autocratic style turns many against him.

So how is Joffrey the perfect example of how not to lead? Unfortunately, there are always those in an organisation who abuse their power and position of authority. Often,managers or leaders who do not exercise the power they hold in an appropriate manner undercut morale, severely affecting the productivity of the work force which can result in high staff turnover.

Tyrion Lannister (The Proxy) - Whilst Tyrion doesn't rule directly, he uses his wit and intelligence to make quick and shrewd decisions, ensuring the capital stays safe during his time as Hand of the King. Unfortunately, Tyrion receives absolutely no credit for saving Kingslanding as he does not command the respect of the people. 

How can we learn from Tyrion's flaws? One thing we can learn from Tyrion is that power doesn't necessarily mean respect and unfortunately, you need both to lead effectively. 

Jon Snow  (The Reluctant) - He may appear to be a natural born leader, yet Jon Snow reluctantly takes on the mantle as head of The Night's Watch. However, his ability to see what others may not such as acknowledging the power of the White Walkers and the Wildlings means he gains a tactical advantage over his enemies.

How is Jon Snow any different? Jon's talent in inspiring and motivating his fellow colleagues is what differentiates him from other leaders that have attempted to rule. Undoubtedly,Jon's uncanny ability to lead thoughtfully, planning out every strategy makes him one of the best leaders on the show.

Clearly leadership comes in many different forms and there isn't a definitive answer as to what makes a perfect leader (if there is such a thing).However, what we can learn is that sometimes having a vision just isn't enough,and to be a great leader you must have the charisma, the respect and the ability to motivate your followers.

Looking around your organisation, do any of your leaders fit these archetypes? What traits should you possess to be a great leader? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

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