Game of Thrones leadership styles we can learn a thing or two from

By Robert Half on 1 June 2015

As any ‘Game of Thrones’ fan will know, winter is coming in Westeros. A strong monarch is needed, but who’s worthy to sit the Iron Throne?

In many ways, the battle for supremacy in the Seven Kingdoms is like the competition for leadership jobs in business. Whenever senior roles arise, there will always be interest from a range of different people – each with their own leadership styles, skills, personality and motivations. The hiring manager must assess the needs of the organisation or ‘realm’, weigh up each individual’s strengths and then choose which ‘Game of Thrones’ character would make the best leader.

Hypothetically, if a business leadership role was up for grabs in the Seven Kingdoms, who would be the best candidate? Is there anything we can learn from Game of Thrones leadership styles? Here is our take:

Tommen Baratheon

Young King Tommen has many of the attributes of a successful leader. Unlike his ruthless, reckless ex-sibling Joffrey, he appears wise, thoughtful and modest. However, age counts against him; Tommen is too young to take charge of his armies and rule without the shadowy influences in the background. There’s also a certain naivety evident, which stems from his sheltered upbringing as a prince never intended to take the throne. With strong leadership required, Tommen isn’t quite ready for the job.

Verdict: Despite his potential, this looks like a job too soon.

Lesson to be learnt: If you’re relatively young and hankering for a management role, be patient. Take this time to build rapport with your subje.. er, peers, and soon enough, your ascension to the management seat will go unchallenged.

Jaime Lannister

Ser Jaime Lannister – a member of the Kingsguard from House Lannister – has the looks, charm and intelligence, and an obvious sense of duty. But despite his skills, personality and powerful backing from Casterly Rock, he is a conflicted character. In short, there are just too many skeletons in the cupboard. This is the ‘Kingslayer’ after all – can he be trusted in a leadership role? Faced with an under-performing colleague, he may take matters into his own hands.

Verdict: Very capable individual, but too much of a risk.

Lesson to be learnt: A sense of integrity is important in leadership roles. No one wants to work with a treacherous turncoat, much less be led by one.

Robb Stark

In the early part of his career, the ‘King in the North’ showed himself to be a great motivator who could lead by example and achieve results – some of the desired leader traits. However, a failure to keep his promises and a shortage of ideas let him down in the end. He failed to see both sides of the coin and then made bad decisions. But this is all academic – Robb’s job application has been withdrawn.

Verdict: Showed potential to be a great leader but ultimately lost his head.

Lesson to be learnt: In stressful situations, not keeping calm and losing your head might also cost you the respect of your team. Alternatively, avoid attending weddings or social events that happen to have red as a primary colour theme.

Stannis Baratheon

Stannis believes he has what it takes to be a great leader, but is he as strong as he thinks? He has a vision and faith in his own ability, yet relies too much on the influence of others… and the dark arts. Surrounded by a strong team, he could prove to be an effective figurehead. But the power of personality isn’t there, so employees will never love him.

Verdict: Some strengths, some weaknesses; a middle of the road candidate.

Lesson to be learnt: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your team when you need help or if you see someone struggling. Open up to your subordinates and show that human side of you. If they can relate to you, they will follow you without reservation.

Margaery Tyrell

Educated, beautiful and ever situationally-aware, Margaery is – on the face of things – a deeply impressive individual. Ever-graceful, she always puts on a great show, displaying warmth and empathy for colleagues at all levels. Yet this young lady is ruthlessly ambitious and knows exactly how to get what she wants. She displays many of the characteristics of a job-hopper – the type who will perform well for a short while, but then move on in search of a greater prize.

Verdict: Credible candidate, but unlikely to be a long term asset for any employer.

Lesson to be learnt: At all times, be nice to your peers and subordinates. If you feel your chances for a promotion are slim where you are, be open to the idea of moving on or learn to negotiate.

Daenerys Targaryen

Employing the ‘Mother of Dragons’ could certainly shake things up a little. Daenerys shows an appetite for making the big decisions and has strong people management skills. She’s also a quick learner who can think on her feet. If employers are looking for a disruptor who can get things back on track, Daenerys may be the one for the job. But she has a ruthless streak; there’s no room for compromise. Unless she has total autonomy, it isn’t going to work.

Verdict: Has talent but is a maverick; will prove difficult to work with.

Lesson to be learnt: Daenerys is the perfect example of a strong female leader. She’s determined, empathetic and doesn’t let anything get in her way. She understands what makes every individual in her team tick, and she plans her moves based on advice from her trusted subordinates – all traits of a smart leader.

Jon Snow

If employers are looking for someone with strong skills and experience, gallons of potential and natural leadership skills, Jon Snow is their man. He isn’t perfect by any means, but he’s highly trained, adaptable and, as a member of the Night’s Watch, is used to working in adverse conditions. Jon gets the job done without any sense of ego or entitlement, encouraging others to buy into the overall mission, culture and goals. In many ways, he is a star in the making.

Verdict: Jon Snow shows many of the attributes associated with great business leaders.

Lesson to be learnt: Jon Snow didn’t care what people thought of him. He took great pride in his job, and understood his purpose. In the same way, the mistakes you’ve made in the past doesn’t matter. It’s what you’re able to contribute now and in the future that does. With a sense of purpose, anything is possible.

While we are talking hypothetically about Game of Thrones leadership styles, it’s important for all candidates to improve their leadership and management skills.

Always seek growth and knowledge, even if you’re high up in the management chain. It’s the only way to truly find success and fulfilment in your career.

This article first appeared on the Robert Half UK blog – “Which Game of Thrones character would make the best leader?

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