I love leadership lessons. They abound in so many different areas such as classic literature, religious texts, philosophers, confidantes, workplace mentors, personal experiences, and great world leaders both past and present. In addition to all these marvelous sources, I always enjoy the leadership lessons that arise in some of our contemporary movies and television programs.
Now in its third season, the HBO series, Game of Thrones, has quickly drawn a strong fan base. The genre may or may not appeal to you, but the series definitely provides us with some challenging leadership lessons. Over the next several days, I will share some leadership-related material connected with this series.
The television series is based on the original written series by George R. R. Martin entitled, Song of Ice and Fire. Set in an unusual world similar to the Middle Ages, but unlike the earth as we know it, seven major kingdoms battle for dominance. The topography is extremely interesting because it is cast in what appears to be an inverted hollow globe perhaps a quarter the size of the earth with a small sun hovering in its center as people exist on the inside surface. The sun is encased in various opaque bands that apparently by their systematic rotation create night, day, and seasons. You definitely gain a powerful sense of fantasy. Nevertheless, in spite of its fantastical and unusual setting, some rich leadership lessons arise from the plot and characters. Writing in Bloomberg Businessweek, Logan Hill summarizes many of these leadership lessons by quoting various series characters (“The Game of Thrones Guide to Management” 4/1/13–4/7/13, pp. 82–83). Here are some of my favorites on the perils and the heavy burdens of leadership:
“If a man paints a target on his chest, he should expect that sooner or later someone will loose an arrow on him.” (Tyrion Lannister.)
This quote reminds us when you are a leader you are a target. It is unavoidable. You become the lightning rod. I can think of no leadership position others or I have filled in which this was not true. Never step into a leadership role unless you are prepared for the arrows.
“A lord may love the men that he commands, but he cannot be a friend to them. One day he may need to sit in judgment on them or send them forth to die.” (Jon Snow.)
Leadership roles remind us we are in a different relationship with those we lead. That is because we will hold them accountable. A leader must do that. A leader who does not hold his or her people accountable is violating the fundamentals of leadership and is not a true leader. That said, in my personal leadership philosophy, I allow friendships to arise. What I find is important is to maintain boundaries, manage each relationship on its merits, and never giving partial treatment to one person over another due to a friendship.
“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.” (Eddard Stark.)
As a leader, you must understand the powerful and real consequences of your decisions. Sometimes you have to look people in the eye when you are delivering painful sentence, and you must give them your ear too. The leader’s sword can be wielded rightly or wrongly. As leaders, we must wield it rightly. Moreover, if you cannot wield it rightly, then you must reassess your motives.
The perils and the heavy burdens of leadership are many. This should give us all pause to reflect deeply upon our leadership. My guess is I am not the only one who can use some improvement.