Insights from the iron throne

Like most of the world, I have been eagerly awaiting the premiere of the fourth season of Game of Thrones. To prime myself for it I have re-watched the previous three seasons and while immersed in the world of Westeros, I asked myself, “What if today’s leaders were like the leaders of the Seven Kingdoms?”

Leadership is a central theme of George R. R. Martin’s epic tale of deception, political intrigue, family and, of course, dragons. But leadership comes in many forms and Game of Thrones typifies this wonderfully.

While it may be difficult to imagine running a team meeting clad in furs and wielding a sword, there are qualities exhibited by the various leaders of Martin’s world that can be transferred to the business world. Here are three leaders that we can learn from to become successful in our modern day world.


Plunged into a less-than ideal marriage by her megalomaniac brother, the young would-be queen of the Seven Kingdoms makes the best of the situation and matures swiftly as a leader. Key to her success is that she understands that a good leader needs good people underneath them but also a willingness to trust their judgment.

As Rudy Giuliani, the 107th Mayor of New York City, says, a leader needs to “find people who are good at the things you’re not good at.” As Daenerys rises to power, she brings together a collective of people with different knowledge bases, experiences and skills and relies on their advice.

Another trait of Daenerys’ leadership is that she truly cares about those she leads. She shows great empathy for the people she leads, understanding their needs and puts their wellbeing at the top of her priorities.

Mike Myatt, CEO of N2growth, says that being a leader affords you a great platform, but the platform is built on the people you lead.

“You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care,” says Myatt. “You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom.”


While you could be forgiven for thinking that the cunning and mischievous dwarf isn’t one of the story’s leaders, despite being a lead character, as the King’s Hand and chief adviser, Tyrion Lannister is arguably the most powerful person in the realm. But what is it that makes Tyrion a good leader?

Tyrion’s greatest strength is not doing something that too many leaders do: He doesn’t assume that people think like he does. As someone who is constantly underestimated, Tyrion has developed a great understanding of others. He knows what motivates them and uses his knowledge to prepare and plan ahead for almost any event, ensuring the kingdom runs smoothly despite the efforts of his tyrannical nephew.


The story of Ned Stark is an interesting one and we can learn more from what he doesn’t do than from what he does. Ned has a history of success, is a skilled soldier and commander, is fiercely loyal to those he leads and is trusted and respected by both his followers and friends. Things start out well enough but soon take a turn when Ned is asked by the King and close friend to be his trusted adviser.

Loyal to a fault, Ned reluctantly accepts the honour and is transported into an unfamiliar world of politics and bureaucracy. His new position necessitates a shift in thinking, as he struggles to come to terms with the social etiquette and requirements of his role.

In the world of business, Ned Stark is representative of a successful employee who is suddenly thrust into the murky world of leadership. He has a good level of education, is supremely experienced and skilled in one or possibly two fields, has a proven track record, has managed small campaigns or teams and is supported by upper management.

However, Ned, like many people elevated into leadership roles, isn’t able to adapt his skillset to the position or its environment and subsequently fails.

According to Tim Ager, Managing Director, EMEA, Celestix Networks, a new leader needs to be willing to learn from their new surroundings quickly, adapt to what is always a new and challenging political landscape and add to their existing skills if they want to succeed.

“A foundation of successful leadership is to continue being good at what we have done while adapting to be successful enough at the things we haven’t done,” says Ager.

“Or as Charles Darwin may have put it, adapt or die.”

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