The Game of Thrones has captured the imagination of millions across the world. Game of Thrones’ season six finale. was watched by 8.9 million people, a new high for the HBO drama. By comparison, the season five finale was watched by 8.1 million (source: Time Magazine). With unpredictable plots, well etched out characters and larger than life settings, Game of Thrones has become a pop culture phenomenon. As a big fan of the show, I couldn’t help but try to draw a parallel between the lives of key characters and business leaders. In this blog, I attempt to highlight 7 key leadership styles based on the Game of Thrones characters.

The Eternal Optimist – All Problems can be Solved

Game of Thrones Arya Stark Quote
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Ask those who have moved up the ladder; the view sure is great but the weather…it gets pretty rough, to say the least. There is no dearth of problems in a leader’s life ranging from market conditions to competition to organizational culture. A problem-solving mindset is absolutely crucial to a leader’s success. With patience, a positive attitude and an objective approach, even the most complex and stubborn problems can be solved!

Leads by example, not by authority

Game of Thrones Lord Tywin Lannister
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With leadership comes to power. However, it’s important to remember that when dealing with people, the authority can only get you so far. Leaders lead by example and earn the respect of the people in the process. It is this mutual respect that drives organizational culture and thereby business outcomes. History is full of examples where leaders have inspired people to pull off impossible feats. Great leaders don’t need to announce themselves, their presence is felt.

Accountable, in the good times and the bad

Game of Thrones Eddard Stark quote
Image Source: HBO

Organizations rely on leaders to take crucial business decisions. But that’s not where the buck stops. Leaders need to take accountability for those decisions, be it success or failure. That also sets the tone for the entire organization to take accountability in terms of backing up the decision and setting out on the course set by the leader.

Performer by Habit

Game of Thrones Jon Snow Quote
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The business world is one driven by numbers and there is no escaping that. However, leaders should not lose themselves in the numbers. Success is about having the ability and discipline to keep at it even when the numbers don’t look so good. Among the troughs in the graphs, lie new opportunities. The reducing size of pie could drive a pivot that changes an entire industry. Leaders need to develop both discipline and resilience to stay focused on outcomes and lay down the direction for the entire organization.

Puts Knowledge above Bravery

Game of Thrones Petyr Baelish Quote
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Leaders need to tread carefully when it comes to uncharted territory. It’s about finding the balance between making a bold decision and the right one. That’s where data comes in. Data gives you the power to predict the outcomes to a great extent. Having access to tons of data in different forms is not enough. Having the ability to derive actionable insights is real power. That’s what it took for Apple to kill all mp3 players, for Amazon to completely change reading habits and for Google to monetize our need for information. In the unknown often lies the next opportunity. A leader who believes that knowledge trumps bravery any day will conquer the unknown!

Plays to win

Tyrion lannister Game of Thrones Quote
Image Source: HBO

Who said it was going to be easy! Yes, failure is part of the game but Leadership is all about winning. Every move a leader makes is about getting a step closer to victory. Every minute of every day, they spend obsessing over about success is going to get them that much closer to it. As a leader, once you commit to a goal, then there is no looking back. You need to do everything in your power and more to lead yourself and your team for making it a reality. That’s the mark of a true leader!

Always Prepared for War!

Game of Thrones Eddard Stark
GoT Wallpaper by Rozensieg

A leader has no time to rest on laurels. Leaders cannot afford to get complacent; they need to keep focusing on bigger milestones. Business environments are so dynamic and things could go south any second. Leadership demands agility, foresight, and sharp acumen. Yahoo’s journey from being an internet phenomenon to going on the bidding block is a story full of lost opportunities, bad decisions, and complacent leadership. Kodak’s downfall from being an iconic company to being bankrupt shows a total lack of foresight and resistance to change. It’s really up to leaders to make sense of the market, the competition, the customer and the chaos of the business environment and conquer it all. Leadership is about waking up every day and going to war, giving it everything you have with one sole purpose: Victory!

Have an interesting Game of Thrones anecdote? Please share!



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