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 week, 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 how a leader will face grave decisions:
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” (Cersei Lannister.)
A leader understands you win or you lose. Leadership by definition is serious. On some matters, no second chances exist. At times leadership is life-and-death serious. Nevertheless, that very understanding impassions and empowers the leader to lead. The leader engages with full force precisely because of the seriousness of the situation and all that is at stake.
“A good king knows when to save his strength and when to destroy his enemies.” (Cersei Lannister.)
Just because you are a leader does not mean you must act on every situation. Not every situation calls for a response. Not every hill is a hill on which to die. Not every situation demands you call out your army. Nevertheless, when an army is called for, then you must swiftly deploy the troops.
“Those are brave men. Let’s go kill them.” (Tyrion Lannister.)
I love this line. It is as funny as it is profound. Tyrion Lannister recognized noble qualities even in his enemies, yet he was perfectly happy to kill them. A good leader thoroughly sees reality yet chooses to take the actions the situation demands. The leader makes a decision and then has the resolve to act on it.
Leaders must sometimes make grave decisions—it just goes with the territory. Not only must leaders recognize the gravity of their decisions, but also they must be equally committed to the execution of those decisions. A decision with no execution is not the mark of a genuine leader.