5 Lessons in Leadership from Game of Thrones

· September 27, 2015

The fantastic saga by George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire, (and the counterpart television series, HBO’s Game of Thrones) offers many lessons in leadership. Leadership can be difficult to teach, given that it is very nuanced and depends on the situations and specific cases. However, fiction often provides us with a magnificent opportunity to explain it.

Leadership is something that we all have to put into practice at some point in our lives. It’s just as important for bosses and business people as it is for teachers or parents who have to educate their children.

If you’ve read the books or watched the series, you’ll recognize these 5 great leadership lessons, and hopefully you can apply them in your own life to reach your goals.

iron-throne

#1 – Keep your promises and pay your debts

You will hear this phrase many times throughout the series from the mouth of any Lannister, especially from Tyrion: “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

In life, the quickest way to lose people’s respect and any power and influence you may have is to make a promise you can’t keep and leave your debts unresolved.

The best way to earn others’ respect and trust is to build a reputation as a person who keeps your promises and pays your debts. The Lannisters go even further: they remind everyone. No doubt a great lesson in personal marketing.


#2 – Be consistent with your decisions and do what you have to do

A great leader doesn’t hide when it’s time to make difficult decisions. Nor does he leave to others the task of doing what must be done. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,” said Ned Stark.

Leaders spend a lot of time in the trenches, working hard, making hard decisions. Because as Ned says: A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.”

#3 – Leadership isn’t bestowed, it is earned

Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king.This glorious phrase was said Tywin Lannister, the patriach of the most powerful family in the Seven Kingdoms. And it’s a great lesson on the meaning of leadership.

tywin-lannister

The best leaders are followed by collective will, not because they say “I’m the boss” or “I’m in charge here.

If you’re a leader, act like one. Earn people’s respect by working for them. The influence and power you obtain will only be effective if it’s been earned and is based on mutual respect.

#4 – When chaos and problems arrives, there’s only one way out: forward.

Problems are challenges that give you the opportunity to improve. When problems arise, that’s when true leaders emerge, ready to be put to the test. In the midst of chaos the true strength of a leader reveals itself.

Effective leaders aren’t frustrated by challenges. Instead, they use challenges to prove themselves.

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder,” Little Finger says at one point. He’s right. If you see chaos as something that can devour you and doesn’t have a solution, you will sink as if into a pit. A leader sees that same chaos as an opportunity to rise and grow. He has no other choice.

But Littlefinger’s lesson doesn’t stop there, it goes on: “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb. But they refuse, they cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

#5 – Always be alert and prepared for the worse

“Winter is coming.” This is House Stark’s motto. The entire Game of Thrones story begins with this phrase: it’s the name of the first episode of the series and also the first chapter in the book.

stark-family

House Stark, a cradle of leadership (even bastard Jon Snow proves himself a born leader), takes this motto to its limit. This motto holds many key lessons about reaching success in our lives.

Leaders stay alert. The world is an uncertain place. The best leaders always innovate and plan for the future. They are prepared for the unexpected, that’s the key. And they embrace winter, especially when everyone else is distracted sunbathing.