Since the HBO series Game of Thrones debuted in 2011, it’s become a cultural phenomenon. The show — which is based on George R. R. Martin’s books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series — features a slew of characters vying for power and control.
In addition to being thoroughly entertaining, Game of Thrones is a remarkable story that showcases various good and bad leadership qualities. Here are five of the good ones:
1. Leaders are responsible for the hardest tasks
Eddard Stark, warden of the north, famously said, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” He is, of course, referring to a death sentence. Though Stark is a noble and respected man who certainly isn’t out for blood, he understands that when a death sentence is issued, it's his responsibility to carry it out — even though he doesn’t necessarily want to.
You might not want to take on the hardest projects at your organization. But that’s why you get paid the big bucks.
2. Leaders can lose battles — but still win wars
There’s no denying the fact Tywin Lannister is a ruthless leader — but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from him. Despite losing an impressive number of head-on battles, Lannister ended up emerging victorious from a war by planning meticulously, forging relationships, and negotiating like a pro.
You can’t expect everything will go your way. You win some; you lose some. But by having a clearly defined vision and a long-term plan for your company, you increase the likelihood results are in your favor.
3. Leaders aren’t held back by their weaknesses
Tywin’s son, Tyrion, is a dwarf. In a land that’s often ruled by fighting power and strength, the younger Lannister still gets things done. He’s obviously aware of how his physical attributes put him at a disadvantage, but he doesn’t let his height hold him back. For example, he saved King’s Landing from invasion through some clever and unconventional tactics nobody else would have thought of.
Even the best leaders the world has ever known have had their fair share of weaknesses. We are all human, after all. What sets great leaders apart from their peers is the fact that they not only understand their weaknesses, but they also know what they need to do to overcome them. In Tyrion’s case, it’s using his intelligence to compensate for his stature.
4. Leaders adapt, and the great ones attract strength
Who could forget Daenerys Targaryen? Initially used as a bargaining chip — she was offered up as a bride, against her will, in exchange for an army — Daenerys adapted to her new life quickly. After the death of her husband, Daenerys became queen. And if that wasn’t enough, as a gift, Daenerys is given three dragon eggs which have allegedly turned to stone over the decades. But once they’re in her possession, they hatch — giving her most powerful allies.
Everything doesn’t always go your way. Great leaders are able to roll with the punches and make the best out of any situation. In turn, they attract the sharpest minds and the hardest workers.
5. Leaders need to keep their behavior in check — or they’ll get what’s coming to them
King Joffrey Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne for the better part of the first four seasons of Game of Thrones. He’s a child king who’s known for being spoiled, stupid, and cruel. Joffrey provides a perfect example of everything a leader should strive not to be. His terrible behavior eventually catches up to him, however, when he’s poisoned at his own wedding.
Don’t be like Joffrey. Leaders who are unfair are also disliked. They don’t exactly inspire their teams to achieve greatness. Lead by example, and your team will happily follow.