Six Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones Season Six


****Contains Spoilers from Game of Thrones Season Six****

Game of Thrones is a world of alliances and competition, politics, powerbrokers, fair and failed leaders, trust, deception, limited resources, plus a few dragons. It shouldn’t be surprising that it’s a world filled with leadership lessons delightfully delivered by our most loved, and game of thrones merchandise hated, characters. In honor of Season Six, here are six lessons all business leaders can learn from Game of Thrones.

Lesson 1. Be self-aware.

Know who you are, warts and all. As a leader, this is a critical characteristic for your success. Tyrion Lannister advises Jon Snow, “Never forget who you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness.” This bit of wisdom served Jon well as he grew into the leader we love today. The advice serves just as well for you, whether you are a leader of a team, or the leader of a business.

Good leaders have an accurate understanding of their own selves, their motivations, values, weaknesses, strengths, vulnerabilities, and needs. Great leaders use this understanding to make changes in themselves. Jon didn’t set out to be a leader. He changed and grew. Tyrion helped by encouraging him to look inside, and to accept and believe in himself. Chip on his shoulder and all.

Once Jon accepted himself and embraced his own principles, he let his actions be driven by his character and beliefs. Those actions drew followers to him. First when he trained Pypar and Grenn to fight, later when he protected Samwell Tarly, and later still by his choices to befriend the Wildlings and protect the North from the White Walkers.

Tyrion couldn’t have known the future when he gave his advice to Jon Snow, but he did see Jon’s core character. He helped Jon not only see it, but to own it, and to make it a strength. Oh, and that chip on his shoulder? It’s still there. But by the end of Season Six it has become a motivator, not a burden. Well done Jon.

In Season Six, we see the same self-awareness displayed by another beloved character who took ownership of herself and of her growth. Daenerys knows her strengths. She spoke the truth when she stood before the weak and misogynistic Dothraki council and proclaimed, “None of you are fit to lead the Dothraki. But I am. So I will.”

At the beginning of Season One, Daenerys was a timid pawn. But as Season Six ended, she stood at the head of her own armada. At her side stood Tyrion, the newly appointed Hand of The Queen – the same self-aware dwarf who once counseled Jon Snow and put him on the path to become the King of The North. Tyrion Lannister, a very wise leader who knows himself, and is finally getting his due. To coin a recent internet meme: Be Like Tyrion.

Lesson 2. Know your competitors.

Know your competitor’s strength, and their weaknesses. Ramsey Bolton is (was) a vile, and twisted sadist. In Season Six we also learn he is a skilled manipulator, brilliant at reading people, and unparalleled at exploiting their vulnerabilities. He knew just when his father’s guard was down. He showed how his deceptively casual, yet carefully chosen words could slice into Sansa like poisonous verbal blades. And he knew Jon’s strengths and weaknesses so well, that he easily drew him into a tactical mistake that negated the strength of his battle plan — despite all of Jon’s advisors, and Sansa, warning Jon not to respond recklessly.

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