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. Today’s blog post is my final one on this theme. I trust you have learned as much, and been challenged as much, as I have.
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 sometimes-messy business of leadership:
“In King’s Landing, there are two sorts of people: the players and the pieces. . . . Every man’s a piece to start with, and every maid as well. Even some who think they are players.” (Petyr Baelish.)
This quote reminds us regardless of our level of leadership, we ought to be concerned not so much with how the world revolves around us, but how we revolve around the world. As much as we might sometimes think we are maneuvering other people, it may be other people are maneuvering us. Arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness can override our personalities and our intelligence if we let them. Yes, undeniably we must take charge of our lives and our leadership. Nevertheless, that should never happen at the expense of our intelligence, our morals, and our ethics.
“In the game of thrones, even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you’ve planned for them.” (Petyr Baelish.)
Leadership can be a messy business. People do not always do what you would like them to do or even what they say they will do. People do not always do what is best for the organization or even what is best for them. People disappoint us . . . often. In spite of that, you cannot allow yourself to become demoralized. The superior solution is to take it all in stride, focus on the positive, and continually use it all to sharpen your own leadership.
As one of our presidents has said, no small problems ever came to his office. If it was small, then someone else had already handled it. By the time it got to his office, it was quite the mess. The principle remains true for you and me as leaders today. Leadership is, always has been, and always will be a messy business. People and situations do not always play out the way we wanted them to or even the way we thought they would. That is also part of the challenge, and yes, even the fun, of being in leadership. You get to tangle with tumultuous tasks and times. If leadership is not your calling, you will know it fast. Nevertheless, if it is your calling, then you will somehow find the strength to embrace joyfully all it brings to your door.