Lessons 1. Be aware of yourself.
Know who you are, warts and everything. As a leader, these are important characteristics for your success. Tyrion Lannister advised Jon Snow, “Never forget who you are, because surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness.” This little wisdom is useful for Jon as he grows to be the leader we love today. This advice is also useful for you, whether you are a team leader, or a business leader.
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Good leaders have an accurate understanding of themselves, their motivations, values, weaknesses, strengths, vulnerabilities, and needs. Great leaders use this understanding to make changes in themselves. Jon doesn’t mean to be a leader. He changes and grows. Tyrion helps by encouraging him to look inward, and to accept and believe in himself. Chips on his shoulders and everything.
As soon as Jon accepts himself and adheres to his own principles, he allows his actions to be driven by his character and beliefs. That action attracts followers to him. First when he trained Pypar and Grenn to fight, then when he protected Samwell Tarly, and then still with his choice to be friends with Wildling and protect the North from the White Walkers.
Tyrion couldn’t know the future when he gave his advice to Jon Snow, but he did see Jon’s core character. He helped Jon not only see it, but to have it, and make it a force. Oh, and the chip is on his shoulder? Still there. But at the end of Season Six it has become a motivator, not a burden. Very good Jon.
In Season Six, we see the same self-awareness shown by another beloved character who takes ownership and growth. Daenerys knows his strength. He told the truth when he stood before the weak and misogynistic Dothraki council and stated, “No one of you is suitable to lead the Dothraki. But me. So I will do it.”
At the beginning of Season One, Daenerys was shy. But when Season Six ended, he stood on his own fleet. On his side stood Tyrion, the newly appointed Queen’s Hand – the self-conscious dwarf who had advised Jon Snow and put him on the road to become the North King. Tyrion Lannister, a very wise leader who knows himself, and finally gets his rights. To make a recent internet meme coin: Be Like Tyrion.
Lesson 2. Get to know your competition.
Know the strengths of your competitors, and their weaknesses. Ramsey Bolton is a cruel, sadistic, crooked man. In Season Six we also learn that he is a manipulator who is skilled, good at reading people, and unmatched in exploiting their weaknesses. He knew when his father’s guard went down. He shows how ordinary words are, but carefully chosen words can slice Sansa like a poisonous verbal bar. And he knows Jon’s strengths and weaknesses very well, so he easily pulls him into tactical mistakes that negate the power of his battle plan – apart from all Jon’s advisers, and Sansa, warns Jon not to respond rashly.
Do your competitors have certain strengths that you need to handle? Do they have weaknesses that you can use? Do they have bad customer service? Slow delivery time? Do they hold fast to the outdated business model? Ramsey will know, and Ramsey will use it in his competitive strategy. You also have to.
Lesson 3. Don’t manage micro.
Tywin Lannister is the best micro manager. He believes no one else can do his job as well as he can. He does not trust anyone and he does not want to share his power. He felt he could buy, and intimidate people to be loyal to him. We see the results. Tyrion made sharp points about it.
In Season Six we were given lessons in micro management and leadership again. Jon and Daenerys both surround themselves with capable independent people. They trust them and empower them, and they in turn trust their leaders.
However, Ramsey Bolton is a reverse study. He arranged micro-people around him. He mistakenly thought he was afraid of respect and bullied them into loyalty. That management style is a recipe for failure as we saw in the second episode of Season Six. In the end he only left his dog to cheer him up. Ramsey arrogantly believes that they will follow his orders. He was wrong, and his destruction came when “his faithful beast” turned against him.
Lesson 4. Recognize the value of ‘Little People’.
Never ignore line workers, hourly workers, independent contributors, and the lowest person on the totem pole. Slaves and peasants are called Game of Thrones as ‘Little People.’ They are an important part of your business, and can be a big part of its success. Share your business vision with them. Make sure that the lowest person in your organization knows that their contribution is important, even if they don’t see the relationship at first. Legend has it that when JFK visited a NASA facility in 1961, he introduced himself to a janitor who was sweeping the floor. “What are you doing here?” JFK asked. The janitor beamed, stood upright, and replied, “I helped put a man on the moon.” Can the people in your organization answer that question with pride as the janitor did for JFK?
Game of Thrones gives us unforgettable lessons with the same characters. Hodor is fun, slow, and kind. Some people imagine him as critical as his story. He has a simple mission; Hold the door. He knew his mission since he was little. He repeated it repeatedly. That was the only thing he could say. When Bran was on the verge of arrest and death, Hodor saved him, and perhaps the future of the Seven Kingdoms, by only doing his work. He holds the door. Hodor is not a brilliant strategist. He is not a warrior. He has no magic. But he finished his work, and his commitment and sacrifice, saved Bran. By doing so, Hodor became one of the most valuable characters in the entire series.
Lesson 5. Don’t react emotionally to a problem, respond seriously.
What makes a leader a great leader is not what’s wrong, but how they deal with it. Petyr Baelish said, “Chaos is not a hole, chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and can never try again. The fall destroys them.” Don’t let the fall destroy you. The best way to do this is to respond to the problem seriously, not in a hurry to react from pure emotional fire.
In Season Six, Daenerys returned from Khalasar and found the city of Mereen attacked by slaves, and Sons of The Harpy rose again from within its walls. It doesn’t seem like much has changed from when he left. And from Tyrion’s way, it was clear he was aware of this. He looks trembling when he faces Daenerys, hoping he explodes.
He explained the situation to him in hasty words, and instead of reacting emotionally and loudly, he stopped, looked at him, and he calmly said, “Good. How about we start?” Then they talked about the next step.
It quickly became clear that he had no strategy other than hitting back as hard as he could. But as a good leader, he allowed Tyrion to suggest alternative plans. A plan turns out, that saves the city, ensures its future, and gives it the fleet it needs. He won, and he won big.
In business, and in life, when you are faced with problems, challenges, or chaos, the first thing you have to do is breathe. Take a deep breath. Then think. Quietly. Don’t react in a hurry because of fear and emotion. Instead of just breathing, and respond with consideration and consideration. As Petyr Baelish suggests, find the ladder out of your mess and climb it.
Lesson 6. Annoying.
The right leader, with the right vision, courage, means, and the team right around him, can change the world! Jon Snow saw that. In one swift move he turns Wildlings from enemies into allies. That is a disturbing step. Like many great leaders, he doesn’t fall into the trap “but we always do it that way.” He broke the rules, did things that were unexpected, and as we saw in Season Six, got strategic partners who fought hard with him.
Daenerys Targaryen understands that too. In Season Five he said one of my favorite sentences. “I will not stop the steering wheel. I will destroy the steering wheel.” I love it. He is a dynamic game changer with the desire to make big decisions.
In Season Six, Daenerys began breaking the wheel by becoming the first female leader of the historical patriarchal group. But that was only the first step. What’s next? He told us all, when he spoke with Vara Greyjoy. “We will leave the world as a better place,” he said.
Jon wants to make the world safer. Daenerys wants to make the world better. I hope both are connected in Season Seven. A pleasant and satisfying future.
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