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 some challenging leadership lessons. Starting last Friday, I am sharing 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 live on the inside surface. The sun is encased in various opaque bands that apparently by their systematic rotations create night, day, and seasons. You definitely gain a powerful sense of fantasy.
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 importance of relationships to our leadership:
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” (Eddard Stark.)
This quote reminds us we are always better off in a group than alone, especially during dangerous times. Being in a group affords a measure of protection and safety. Being alone can render us vulnerable. The most effective leaders know the importance of aligning with other people and with other groups of people. Networking is not something new in our technological times; it is an ancient art that has never lost its luster.
“A man without friends is a man without power.” (Renly Baratheon.)
A person can have a big title with much responsibility, but if he or she does not have influence, then leadership is absent. In one word, leadership is influence, and influence derives from relationship. The smart leader handles every relationship with care. Ultimately, the leader’s power will only manifest if something deeper than a big title exists. You can have position power or you can have people power. Position power is ultimately ineffective because people tend to give it lip service only. People power is always effective because people are responding to the character and integrity of the real person.
“Trust is earned. Like gold.” (Brienne of Tarth.)
Trust is not some commodity that is instantly pulled off the shelf at anyone’s command. Brienne of Tarth reminds us just as we work for our income, likewise we must work for our trust. This is essential to leadership because all leadership is based in relationship and all relationship evolves from trust. Just as gold is earned over time, trust is earned over time. The longer I have known someone in a trusting relationship, the more I know I can depend on that person, because of our mutual trust.
All genuine leadership flows out of relationship. The quality of your leadership is a reflection of the quality of your relationships. If you are not happy with your leadership, review how you handle your relationships.