Take a sword to it – Leadership Insights

by Mar 24, 2014Blog0 comments

A little change in focus and style this time around. Please sit back and enjoy as we gleam Leadership insight through Game of Thrones.

Lessons from Westeros – Leadership in Game of Thrones

We all have days when we wish we could take a sword to our problems. We want to slice through those pages of reports, lock the people vexing us up in bare stone cells, or just sit round the office in a crown enjoying unchallenged obedience. In short, we sometimes wish we lived in Game of Thrones.  But while we can’t take an axe to the challenges of modern leadership, there are lessons we can learn from the show’s characters.

Maybe not Ned Stark though – that guy just loses his head in a crisis.

Daenerys Targaryen – putting people first

Deanerys’s story is the most straightforwardly heroic in Game of Thrones. She starts out in a position of weakness and exile, nothing more than a pawn in her brother’s plans. But when she becomes a leader in her own right she does what many other characters don’t – she puts people first.

Daenerys has great sympathy for the people she meets, whether her followers in her khalasar or the slaves she encounters on her journey home. She understands their needs and desires, she prioritizes their concerns, and she isn’t afraid to share herself with them. That builds a bond that creates a loyal army for her cause.

Show empathy, take employee’s concerns into account, show them your human side, and you’ll build a dedicated work force.

Tyrion Lannister – understanding others

Daenerys may show the most compassion, but Tyrion shows the greatest understanding of others. He knows what motivates a range of different people and he uses it, not in underhand ways – not all the time, at least – but in ways that ensure the smooth running of King’s Landing throughout his time as hand.

It’s all too easy to assume that others will think like us, or not to plan for their reactions. Tyrion never makes that mistake. So think like the imp, work out how others are likely to respond to your plans, and you’ll have far plainer sailing.

Stannis Baratheon – the problem with inflexibility

While Stannis has redeeming qualities, we can learn the most from his mistakes. Utterly uncompromising, he refuses to work with any of the other contenders for the Iron Throne, even his brother Renly. Stannis has wealth, power and a loyal following, but his unwillingness to compromise only strengthens his greatest enemies, the Lannisters, because he won’t work with others against them.

Of course there’s an upside to Stannis’s stubborn streak. It’s what lets him keep going no matter the setbacks. But it also means he makes setbacks for himself. So find that Stannis-like determination and learn to temper it. No one can have their own way all the time, and it’s by working with others that we achieve our greatest triumphs.

Beyond the people

It’s not just the characters in Game of Thrones that can teach us lessons – there are things leaders can learn from the setting as well. And I’m loath to leave the rich and fascinating world of Westeros, so we’ll look at them next.

Image credit: demian1975 / 123RF Stock Photo

Mark Lukens, MBA

Mark Lukens, MBA

Founding Partner at Capatus
Mark Lukens is a founding partner at Capatus and located in the New York office. He leads the Capatus’ Global Talent and Advisory practice. He is also an expert in the firm’s research and nonprofit practice. Lukens has more than 20 years of c-level executive and consulting experience delivering strategies and transformational programs to firms ranging from start-up to Fortune 50. He has worked with clients in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. Lukens worked extensively in various product and service categories including health care, life sciences, government, nonprofit, technology, and professional services. He also advises clients in other industries including commercial and industrial, retail, logistics and transportation, media and more. Lukens serves on several Nonprofit Boards and is a professor at the State University of New York where he teaches in the School of Business and Economics with a focus on marketing, international management, entrepreneurship, HR, and organizational behavior to name a few. Lukens has a technical background as a MCSE and earned an MBA from Eastern University.
Mark Lukens, MBA
The successful warrior is the average man, with laserlike focus. Bruce Lee - 1 day ago
Mark Lukens, MBA

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