Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones

With the start of Game of Thrones Season Three only hours away it is a good time to revisit and update one of my old blog posts 4 Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones.

When I originally read the five available books in George R.R Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ I found myself thinking about the leadership and life lessons that could be extracted from the series. Quotes like ‘Kill the boy’ haunted some of my more boy-like decisions, and Ygritte’s ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’ played through my head whenever I took issue with a management decision.  I would reflect on the possibility that many more factors were at play than I could see, and that I still had some distance to travel in my journey to be a more effective person (and leader).

So here is my list of seven leadership lessons from Game of Thrones, expanded from my original list of 4:

1. Winter is Coming

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, or it may come to all. 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.  If you’re not doing it, someone else will.

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

Thankfully, in business we’re not taking lives, but you are likely to cast judgement: who to hire, fire, or reprimand. If you can’t look them in the eye and deliver the news you probably shouldn’t be in charge.

3. Kill the boy and let the man be born

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”

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?

You can also apply this to those below you who have disappointed. Why did they do it that way? As a leader it is too easy to assume your staff know what you know. They don’t.

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

If there is one quote from the series that describes my focus over the last few years it’s this one. I learnt the hard way as an undergrad at University that smarts only gets you so far. You can’t expect to keep turning up to exams and getting great marks whilst missing every lecture. The same goes with business. You need to keep levelling up, keep sharpening. Failure to do so is rust on your effectiveness.

[thankyou to noobtoboss.com for suggesting this quote]

6. A Lannister always pays his debts

In the series, this quote is most often used as a threat.  In the business world it should be used as a signal of authenticity. As Ryan, an MBA student and all-round great guy, commented:

“a leader must follow through on his commitments…. It helps build strong relations and broadens the leaders influence across the organisation”

People need to know that you expect quality from them, and that you will recognise and appreciate such efforts. They also need to understand that you will not turn a blind eye to poor performance.

It is important to note that this should not mean the support of cronyism or the politics of office favour.

7. The lone wolf dies but the pack survives

If you constantly try to go it alone, you make success all the more difficult. Whether an intrepreneur or entrepreneur – you will need people to listen to your vision, who then join forces to help you to achieve it. In any new venture or idea, there is too much for you to do alone. To get traction you will need help. So stop thinking your idea’s are so precious and bring others in to help make them real.

This quote can also be used in reference to delegation. If you’re the only one fighting the battles, working over time and shielding your team from all the stress, you won’t last long. Let the wolfpack in on your troubles and you’ll be more relaxed and get more done.

So that’s my 7 Leadership Lessons from Game of Thrones. Let Season 3 begin!

Comments? Thoughts? Hit me up below!

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