Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones

9 Jul

It took almost a year of my friends telling me how much I would love the HBO series Game of Thrones for me to get around to watching it. Truth be told I didn’t have the time, but when I found myself with some free time earlier this summer I tore through the first two seasons on HBO GO. After I finished the TV series I still wanted more Game of Thrones, so last week I began reading the books on which the series is based. I’m about half way through the first book right now and it’s awesome. George R.R. Martin is a master of his craft. The books are a wonderful supplement to the TV series providing a wealth of detail and background unavailable in the show, and it does so in a beautiful and enthralling manner. The books revolve around the lives of leaders and it is only natural that they should espouse leadership lessons left and right. Even though I’m only half way through the first book I wanted to highlight a few quotes from the book I think impart valuable leadership wisdom.

Know Your Men

“Her father used to say that a lord needed to eat with his men, if he hoped to keep them. ‘Know the men who follow you,’ she heard him tell Robb once, ‘and let them know you. Don’t ask your men to die for a stranger.’ At Winterfell he always had an extra seat at his own table, and everyday a different man would be asked to join him.” 

This passage is about Eddard Stark and his thoughts on a Lord’s relationship with his people, but it is relevant for any leader. Having a pulse on the life of one’s organization is vital, and what better way than to interact with those you lead first hand. There are handfuls of CEOs famous for following this principle. From simply walking the office floor and chatting with workers to having formal programs in place, communication throughout an organization is a quality embodied by many successful companies.

The Man Who Passes Sentence Should Swing the Sword

“…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. … A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is,”

While this maxim of House Stark obviously doesn’t relate to today’s leaders in a literal sense, it still has value in its overall message. A leader should be fully and personally committed to any undertaking that he or she is planning. Without being personally involved in project implementation a leader loses sight of operations and loses touch with what it takes to carry out their plans.

The Lone Wolf Dies While the Pack Survives

“Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths.”

This quote, spoken by Septa Mordane to Arya should be readily apparent to any leader, however I liked the manner in which Martin packages the message. While arguments are okay, and in some cases they can be constructive, the team must also be supportive of all members if it hopes to survive. In times when your team is under a lot of pressure keeping a positive atmosphere amongst members is key to maintaining morale and productivity.

You Must Be Afraid In Order To Be Brave

“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid? He heard his own voice saying, small and far away. And his father’s voice replied to him. ‘That is the only time a man can be brave.’”

I particularly enjoyed this quote, and to me it means it says two things. First, that it is okay to be afraid. Second, that in order to be brave you must first be willing to take the risks necessary to put you into the situation where you must confront your fear. Leaving your comfort zone requires a certain amount of bravery, but it is not until you are faced with fear that you may prove your courage.

These quotes are only a small sampling of the leadership lessons that can be found within A Game of Thrones, and adequately doing the subject of GOT leadership lessons justice would require many pages. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed my selections and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or some of your own takeaways at kevin@clipboard-plus.com

Also please check out the Kickstarter campaign that we are running for our line of smartphone and tablet integrated clipboards, only one week left!

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6 Responses to “Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones”

  1. Patrick July 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Awesome post Kevin! I am also reading Game of Thrones and never really thought about the very clear leadership lessons in the Song of Ice and Fire Series. Thanks for your insight!

  2. andyclipboardplus July 10, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Just so.
    All great lessons learned from A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m on the fifth book and can’t imagine what I’ll have to think about once I’m done and waiting for the sixth to come out.

    Another quick lesson repeated multiple times in the third book (without giving anything away) often heard in the free city of Braavos – Valar Dohaeris – High Valyian for “All men must serve”.

  3. Randy Wrong July 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I had a dream that I met a guy reading an advanced copy of the sixth book, and I took it from him after a bout of single combat… Valar marghoulis

  4. Andy Forbes July 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Kevin, Great article. My series favourite, from book 2(?) is ‘you know nothing jon snow’ – in the startup world we are tasked with challenging assumptions (our own and others). Good luck with the kick-starter campaign and thanks for the ping back to http://www.mbanights.com.


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