Game of Thrones is more than just a rage-inducing, hair-pulling drama that makes you abandon hope in humanity. It's also packed with valuable life lessons about leadership. Here are the key takeaways I've gleamed from George R.R. Martin's masterpiece.
1. Be a Man of Your Word
Good leaders stand by their word, and while honor is a dubious subject in the Game of Thrones world (as likely to get your head chopped off as it is to save you), the show's most beloved characters are those who stand by their word.
Robb Stark discovered firsthand the dangers of going back on one's word. In marrying another woman instead of following through with his planned betrothal to one of the Freys, he infuriated valuable allies, culminating in the unforgettable horror that was the Red Wedding.
Jaime Lannister offers more proof to the detrimental dangers of breaking your vows. When Jaime murdered Mad King Aerys, he was arguably committing a kindness, as the Mad King was well into his rampage of burning and torturing innocents.
However, as a member of the Kingsguard--a group who are sworn to protect the King for life--Jaime's betrayal was considered wretched to many. Jaime's broken vow earned him the title of the Kingslayer, rather than liberator.
2. Recognize and Reward Talent
The most successful leaders are the ones who recognize, foster, and reward talent.
Jeor Mormont (former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch) sees potential in Jon Snow, just as Jaqen H'ghar of the Faceless Men sees promise in needle-wielding Arya. One's a bastard and the other a mere child, but that doesn't stop the wise leaders from seeing their talent.
Tyrion Lannister is a character brimming with talent who is never recognized. Tyrion is intelligent, strategic, and compassionate--all qualities of a great leader. He could serve as a huge asset to the Lannister family, were it not for his dwarfism, which his family continuously holds against him.
Tyrion's efforts to prove his worth to his family are wrenching, especially when witnessing how desperately King's Landing needs Tyrion's skills, were he only allowed to use them.
Tywin Lannister longs for a son with military mindfulness and political strategizing--the qualities that Tyrion excels at. Tragically, Tywin refuses to acknowledge his son's skills, despite his multitude of talents, simply because of his shape and stature.
In contrast, Daenerys Targaryen recognizes Tyrion's value and talent. She does not hold his physical appearance against him, and adds him to her team of advisers with little to no hesitation. While we've yet to see how Tyrion's advice will help Daenerys, it's safe to say he will be integral to her conquering Westeros.
Listen to, recognize, and encourage your team members--they could be your unlikely heroes.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Build Unlikely Alliances
In the Game of Thrones world, leaders are continuously making strategic alliances, even with less-than-perfect partners that at first glance appear to be enemies.
Whether it's Jon Snow uniting with the despised wildlings to fight a greater evil, or Daenerys making peace (or trying to, anyway) with the noble families of Meereen, Game of Thrones' greatest leaders aren't afraid to make tenuous alliances when need be.
Follow a cue from these epic GoT leaders and be open to unlikely partnerships. They may be your saving grace in the long run.
4. For Real Innovation, Be a Breaker of Chains
Real leaders seek to innovate in the biggest ways imaginable. As per Daenerys's riveting speech, the aim shouldn't be to simply stop the wheel but instead to break it.
Granted, with fire-breathing dragons and an army of Unsullied, Dany is in a better position than most to break the mold. However, your own innovation and creativity can be your own dragons. OK, so creativity won't get you a Valyrian steel sword, but it's still a powerful weapon in its own right.
5. Don't Let Failure Deter You
On Game of Thrones, we see that the best leaders never let failure or setbacks deter them from their goals.
Stannis Baratheon retreats from the Battle of Blackwater with decimated troops but renewed determination. Brienne of Tarth meets setbacks at every turn in her mission to rescue the Stark children, even outright rejection by the girls she is trying to save. Still, she refuses to give up. Then of course there's poor, sad Jorah Mormont, who is going for exile Yahtzee and doing his best to bust through the friend zone.
These characters don't let their failures define them, instead marching forward even with the odds stacked against them.
The final and most important Game of Thrones leadership lesson--avoid incest when at all possible.
What other leadership lessons have you learned from Game of Thrones?