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 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 two of my favorites on the importance of knowing how to use power and how to influence power:
“When you know what a man wants, you know who he is and how to move him.” (Petyr Baelish.)
Understanding another person’s motivations is one of the most important components to leadership. If I do not understand what drives a person, then I have no hope of influencing that person. On the other hand, when I know another person’s motives, passions, and desires, then I can adjust my approach accordingly.
“Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” (Varys.)
Although I do not endorse Varys’ allusions to deception, the fact remains a person’s deportment is extremely important to his or her leadership. Presentation is everything. Perception is reality. These truths are integral to leadership. I have met many people I anticipated would be great leaders only to be sadly disappointed. I have met many people whom for one reason or another I thought would not be leadership material, yet the way in which they comported themselves quickly convinced me otherwise.
Effective leaders must recognize and respect power. They must learn how to approach it, how to use it, and how to grant it. Missteps with power can have grave consequences, but correct steps with power can provide terrific accomplishments. Our consistent responsibility as leaders is to use our power correctly.