4 Leadership Quotes From Game of Thrones

HBO’s Game of Thrones TV series has been a huge hit (recently declared most pirated TV show of 2012). Season two has recently ended so I thought it would be fun to consider a few quotes from leadership perspective. This is obviously meant tongue-in-cheek, don’t take this too seriously!

So without further ado – here are my top 4 Leadership Quotes From Game of Thrones!

DISCLAIMER: Whilst I have not included spoilers, some of the concepts have been taken from events in the books which have not transpired in the TV show yet..

1. Winter is Coming

In the series, grim northerners love to remind the world that winter is coming, but few care to hear it. This warning to prepare for tough times can be applied to all businesses. As Levitt put forward in Marketing Myopia, all declining industries were once growth industries. No matter how successful your business is, increased competition, alternative products and declining demand are just some of the white-walkers on the horizon.

If you’re prepared for winter, you’ll know how much margin you have to give and still remain viable.

Winter may come to only one of your products or services. Today’s cash cow may be tomorrow’s dog.

Broaden your focus, consider your customer’s problems, and look for opportunities to innovate and disrupt


2. The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword

One of the first “lessons” in the TV show, Ned Stark tells his son Bran:

“the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die”

Thankfully, in business we’re not taking lives, but you are likely to cast judgement: who to hire, fire, or reprimand. Whilst I have never been in the position of having to fire someone, this is sounds like very good advice. If you can’t look them in the eye and deliver the news, perhaps they don’t deserve to go.

3. Kill the boy and let the man be born

On the wall Jon is advised by Maester Aemon, that if he is to lead men, he will need to kill the boy within. The boy-within hides from the difficult, tough-to-make decisions, delaying and hiding instead of solving and leading. Perhaps if you delay long enough, that tough decision will just go away, or maybe someone else will make it for you.

A great leader will recognise when their inner child is controlling their decisions

So next time you are faced with a tough decision that you’re delaying, think of Jon Snow and man (or woman) up.

4. “You know nothing Jon Snow”

When Ygritte said “You know nothing Jon Snow” it set in place a theme that would follow Jon for the rest of his travels. Of all the leadership lessons from Game of Thrones this is the best one to reflect on. If you think you know everything, or that your knowledge and logic is flawless then you’ve already made your first mistake. A bigger mistake will be just around the corner.

Reminding yourself that you don’t know anything is not only a path to humility, it’s also a great strategy to reduce risk in your decision-making.

Extending this idea a little further; in the workplace there will be moments when management will do something that does not make sense. But did you have all the facts?

There may have been more to it than you knew

You can also apply this to those below you who have disappointed. Why did they do it that way? What’s wrong with them? Surely the right way was obvious?

As a leader it is too easy to assume your staff know what you know. They don’t.

So there’s my top 4 leadership quotes or moments from Game of Thrones. I didn’t cover one of the key themes of the series – trust and loyalty as I didn’t find a great quote to properly cover it.

What do you think of my 4 Leadership Quotes From Game of Thrones? Any favourite quotes or moments I should have covered?


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4 thoughts on “4 Leadership Quotes From Game of Thrones

  1. “A Lannister always pays his debts.”

    Depending on the tone of your voice when you quote this it could invite trust or instill fear in your team :) But as a Lannister always pays his debts, a leader must follow through on his commiments as well. It helps build strong relations and broadens the leaders influence across the organisation. Gold coins might help too. :)

  2. Pingback: Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones « Changing the Way You Work

  3. “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge”

    Encouraging self education and teaching will not only make your job as a leader easier but potentially birth new ideas and directions from within the team.

    I also like;

    “Fear cuts deeper than swords”

    And we all know how hard it is to succeed if you are scared to first fail. Encouraging risk taking and teaching that failure should inspire us to be better next time is key as a strong leader. Look how good a teacher Sirio was to Arya!

  4. Pingback: MBANights Leadership Lessons From Game Of Thrones

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