In celebration of the seventh season of Game of Thrones, we take a look at the different leadership approaches embodied by some of the key players in Westeros.
Obviously the humdrum world of work is fairly removed from the machinations for the Iron Throne – unless your office environment involves gratuitous nudity, gruesome beheadings and constant, conniving backstabbing.
Beyond the show’s more adolescent appeal, Game of Thrones is all about shifting power dynamics, leadership and the constant struggle to stay at the top (or simply survive).
With that in mind, we don’t think it's too much of a stretch to draw some analogies from business. Just like Westeros's finest, no one knows which challengers pose the greatest threat, and the risk of being usurped is constant in a cut-throat market.
In the unpredictable power plays of business, which character traits do you use to get ahead, without losing your head?
Everyone has worked with a Littlefinger. He’s every manager who’s thrown his colleagues to the direwolves to protect his own handsomely rewarded backside. But while many have left in brutal corporate bloodlettings, Littlefinger remains.
Yet there is something to be said for his pragmatic, unsentimental tactics. By being suspicious of everyone, it’s possible to get a sense of where the wind is blowing and use management coups or ‘restructuring’ programmes for your own ends. As Littlefinger says: “Chaos is a ladder.” Just don’t expect people to linger by the water cooler when you’re around.
"The best people to have power are the ones who don't want it,” according to Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow. Like his character, some folk have found themselves in management positions they never desired. These people often command great respect from their team because of their integrity and willingness to do what must be done. But a word of warning: read the political climate wrong and it could be as costly as Lord Walder Frey’s dry-cleaning bill. Unlike Game of Thrones, there’s no coming back from the dead once you’ve been pushed into the cold.
The Daenerys Targaryen management type has a rare quality: vision. Ultimate self-belief and a sense of mission have led to some big wins. People believe in what you’re selling because you’ve shown them it can be done differently. However, too much confidence is dangerous. Without a Tyrion Lannister telling you when you’ve drank too much of your own Kool-Aid, those big plans could go up in flames.
There’s no question who’s boss here: fail to bend the knee and get the boot instead. You know exactly what the threats are to your market and instilling fear in staff makes them focused on the tasks at hand. Some of the most successful businessmen are not known for being nice people. Yet they've achieved great things by demanding everything from their underlings. Just watch out that one of the many enemies you’ve created doesn’t stab you in the back at the first opportunity.
Clearly wide-eyed idealism isn’t enough to ensure survival, but isn’t a long-term strategy either. Perhaps the most successful leader is the one who uses the best attributes from all characters.