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. For the past couple weeks I have been 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 a couple of my favorites on the relationship between leadership and truth:
“Some day you’ll sit on the throne, and the truth will be what you make it.” (Cersei Lannister.)
This quote contains an element of truth and an element of falsehood. A leader understands the power of his or her decrees. As Max DePree states in the opening sentence of his book, Leadership Is an Art, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” The point is leaders define the realities of their domains. That is the truth element. Now, the falsehood element is this: Just because a leader decrees something does not guarantee it is based in truth. Leaders, like all people, are fallible. A person’s leadership will ultimately fall if it was never based in truth. Therefore, I contend Cersei Lannister is only half right on this one.
“People often claim to hunger for truth but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.” (Tyrion Lannister.)
Tyrion Lannister captures the old adage: the truth hurts. A significant part of a leader’s responsibility is to lead people into truth. In so doing, individual journeys are sometimes tinged with pain. Sometimes in our personal and professional growth, we must face hard truths about our circumstances or ourselves. Nevertheless, another adage is true: no pain, no gain. A leader may not always like the truth, but failing to engage it does no good to anyone.
Leadership is intrinsically linked to truth. Leaders who ignore this dynamic undermine their leadership, their own growth, and their followers’ growth. Leaders who embrace this dynamic strengthen their leadership, their own growth, and their followers’ growth.