Summer is here, and at long last Winter is Coming.
Season 7 of the HBO series Game of Thrones debuts Sunday, July 16th. If this season follows suit, GoT fans can expect more epic showdowns, sweeping scenes, stunning effects, converging plot lines, and the loss of at least a few beloved characters.
Only one character has made it back from the dead. Jon Snow's resurrection seemed like a real marker in the story. You would think he'd be a safe bet to play a part in the show's final designs. You would think. The only way to know for sure is to tune in the next seven Sunday nights. Expect the unexpected.
You can expect certain elements to appear in this saga. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have a knack for the dramatic turn. They're also adept at crafting a dialogue that sticks, often times saying more of consequence than the simple script commands.
The honor in leadership is a topic they've visited consistently. Characters, sometimes in surprising ways, have both benefited from and suffered the consequences of their leadership virtues. It's made for some astounding theater.
So, here they are, the top five greatest leadership scenes from past seasons of Game of Thrones:
5. Tyrion Lannister leads the fight at the Battle of Blackwater Bay (Season 2, Episode 9)
Stannis' men are at the gates of King's Landing with the upper hand in the battle for the capital city. The King's guard sees the turn of the battle and unravels. The coward King Joffrey abandons the front. All seems lost.
Then, Tyrion the dwarfed second-in-command emerges with a stirring speech. He calls on the men to defend their city, their homes, their families. He leads the charge, beating back the invaders. In the heat of the battle, real leaders emerge; in all shapes and sizes.
4. Jaime Lannister's "bath" speech (Season 3, Episode 5)
Jaime Lannister has long been known as the King Slayer for his stab-in-the-back execution of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen. It's never been a term of endearment, as Jaime has occupied the role of villain since pushing young Bran Stark out a window in the series first episode.
Yet, in this scene, Jaime lifts the mystery behind the slaying as he reveals to Brienne the king's plot to burn to death his subjects in a mass execution. Jaime executed the King and saved the city. Heroism is there for the taking.
3. "The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword" (Season 1, Episode 1)
In Ned Stark's short stint on the show, he delivers perhaps its most memorable line. Having just condemned a deserter of the Knight's Watch to death, he swiftly carries out the sentence himself.
When explaining the move to young Bran, he makes a point to deliver this lesson: Leaders lead with action and commission themselves with the most difficult assignments.
2. Daenerys frees the unsullied (Season 3, Episode 4)
In this most dramatic of scenes, Daenerys appears to trade one of her dragons in exchange for the 8,000-strong Unsullied army. The transaction turns ugly as Kraznys repeatedly insults her. This does not end well for him as he finds himself on the hot end of one of Daenerys' dragons.
The battle over, she turns and frees the lifelong slaves from their chains, and offers them the chance to join her army as free men. They all stay, pounding their spears in unison. When given the chance, people will passionately follow real leaders.
1. Jon Snow leads from the front in the Battle of the Bastards (Season 6, Episode 9)
Courage only really shows up in dangerous scenarios. That's exactly where Jon Snow finds himself as he charges solo across the field where this much anticipated battle is to commence. In a futile attempt to save his long lost brother Rikon from Ramsay's arrows, John finds himself staring down a charging cavalry. There is no escape.
In the most remarkable of scenes, Jon unsheathes his sword and prepares to engage Ramsay's men, against all odds. In the end, the Wildling army reciprocates the charge, and the ferocious battle is pitched with Jon Snow a main protagonist. He wins and reclaims Winterfell, his native land. At times, leaders must bravely lead the fight from the front.
Bravery, courage, passion, humility. Leadership. Over its run, Game of Thrones has shown a keen sense of the characteristics that drive humans to lead and follow.
Staged against a fantastical backdrop, this series is really more about the essence of the human spirit. Good versus evil. And while the final scenes have yet to play out, you can bet we'll see more scenes like these where the plot turns on courageous acts.
Because in this Game of Thrones, leadership matters.
Winter is here.