7 Leadership Lessons From Game Of Thrones

HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed novels A Song of Ice and Fire, has become a worldwide phenomenon. Many claim that its popularity is because of the high drama, violence and action (of every kind) depicted in the series.

While it does have a high dose of fantasy (with dragons thrown in for good measure), I believe that the one big reason many of us are quite addicted to the show is because of the strong characters with complicated and complex personalities it portrays that all of us can relate to.

Keeping aside the dragons, warlords, and wights, fundamentally there is not much difference between the world of Game of Thrones and the real world that we live in today. Because of these similarities, we can actually extract a lot of good leadership lessons from Game of Thrones.

1. You don’t need an illustrious background to become a good leader

The audience (including me) and all the characters in GoT never took Jon Snow too seriously in the beginning. But he never let that affect him and decided to do the job that he was given to him at that time (member of the night’s watch) with all his heart.

Over time we see this character evolve from a boy to a man and the primary reason is that he is both a great team player and a leader. He’s all about creating harmony, peace and getting his team through stressful scenarios.

Lesson: Judge everyone on the basis of their actions and intent, not their background.

2. Lead with companionship and not fear

This seems to be the reoccurring leadership lesson of this season that Tyrion is providing to Daenerys, don’t lead with fear, as it might lead her down the same path as the Mad King, Stannis or Joffrey.

Yes, fear tactics might get you results in the short term but not endearing loyalty, something that Jon Snow possesses. Allowing people to buy into your bigger vision will get you better long term results and more engaged team members.

3. Lead by example

“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”- Eddard “Ned” Stark

A true leader is someone who can be a role model in all aspects. You must lead with action and commission yourself with the most difficult assignments.

It was particularly seen in SE2E9 when coward King Joffrey abandons the front while Tyrion decides to lead the fight at the Battle of Blackwater Bay and delivers an inspiring speech to lift the spirits of his soldiers.

4. Groom your replacement

Brienne of Tarth has groomed Podrick Payne over several seasons and now she can trust him to look after Sansa (Arya doesn’t need any watching) when she needs to go to Kinds Landing.

A good leader always empower their subordinates which helps them in the long run.

5. “Any man who must say, I am the king, is no true king

People do not follow titles. They follow leaders. Leadership is not the same as having a title.

Titles give you an opportunity to lead but good leadership skills will help you retain the title in the long run.

6. Capitalise on your strengths and minimise your weaknesses

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”- Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion Lannister might be small in stature, but his knowledge, wit and the ability to see things from different perspectives is what has made him rise to the stature of hand to the queen.

7. Listen to your advisers

They might not have the charisma of their leaders but Davos is wiser than Stannis, Maester Aemon is wiser than Jon Snow, Tyrion is wiser than Daenerys.

The best leaders, whether the CEO of a company or the King/Queen of Westeros, surround themselves with people who are better or may even have contrary views on issues than them.

Doing this makes sure that they are always able to look at a situation from different angles before taking a decision.

So until next time let me part with this joke (or is it?).


Karan Kakkar

A die-hard Roger Federer fan, Karan is a singer and a musician who plays three percussion instruments. After spending the first 24 years of his life in Delhi, he finally found solace in the beautiful campus of IIM Kozhikode. Known simply as Kakkar among his friends, he prides myself on having watched all the IMDB top 250 movies in a single summer long movie marathon. He served as one of the student team members/writers of insideIIM.com, representing IIM Kozhikode.