Leadership Lessons From the Ladies of Game of Thrones
Note: This article contains spoilers through season seven.
The Game of Thrones television series is exciting, suspenseful, and absorbing; no wonder there is so much hype around the upcoming eighth and final season. But what really caught my attention while watching the first seven seasons are the strong female characters – women who are not afraid to break barriers and challenge the status quo.
As the founder of a boutique MBA admissions consulting firm helping candidates gain admission to business school, I view my clients as future leaders of the world; as a result, I am always intrigued by what I can learn from leaders, whether real or fictional ones.
So, what can the ladies of Game of Thrones teach us about leadership?
Leadership requires courage.
Daenerys Targaryen’s evolution from a sheltered girl to someone who seeks to reclaim the Iron Throne has not been without its trials and tribulations. However, through those hardships, she has emerged stronger.
Being a leader is not for the faint of heart – it requires pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and being unafraid to face obstacles. In the workplace, you will undoubtedly encounter projects and situations that are difficult, but it is by addressing and rising above them that you will hone the qualities to become a leader.
Leadership encompasses the willingness to collaborate with others.
Sansa Stark inherently showcases leadership when she asks others to collaborate with her. It is because of her asking the Knights of the Vale for help that the tide of the Battle of the Bastards turns and Jon Snow is able to defeat Ramsay Bolton. Similarly, she is not shy to approach other houses in the North and ask for their support to fight against an eventual attack by the White Walkers.
Leaders know that they cannot accomplish their goals in isolation. Throughout your career, it will be necessary to work with others and seek help in order to progress; the ability to do so is an important step towards exhibiting leadership.
Leadership requires knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
Daenerys yet again arises as a leader in this regard; she surrounds herself with people who have wisdom that she does not have. This includes Tyrion Lannister, whom Daenerys appoints as her hand and trusted advisor because he has knowledge of Westeros and impeccable negotiation skills. Likewise, Lyanna Mormont, the very young Lady of Bear Island, astutely surrounds herself with advisors and consults with them as necessary.
Being a strong leader entails having self-awareness with respect to your strengths and weaknesses. Having an understanding of where you excel and where you do not can help you successfully lead professionally, and even personally.
Leadership requires strong communication skills.
Yara Greyjoy is a formidable leader, as well as captain of her own ship. She draws upon her communication skills to announce that she plans to succeed her father on the Salt Throne; she emphasizes her experience leading her people, the Ironborn, on the seas when garnering support. Lady Mormont also displays strong communication skills during a meeting of the Northern houses; she is the first person to state that Jon Snow is the King of the North.
As a leader, having effective communication skills is imperative in order to share your vision with others. Both Lady Mormont and Yara demonstrate that anyone can be a leader; age and being in the minority (in this case, both are women in very male-dominated societies) take a backseat to being able to communicate well.
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Leadership involves making decisions that focus on the greater good.
As the Lady of Winterfell, Sansa decides that Petyr Baelish must be executed, given his many crimes against House Stark and his attempts to cause broader discord. We can also learn from Cersei Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, who holds leadership in title, but not in spirit. Cersei’s decisions are prompted purely by selfishness, such as when she kills the High Sparrow and Margaery Tyrell, both of whom wronged her; in doing so, many innocent people are also killed.
Being an effective leader means having to make decisions, often difficult ones, that are beneficial for the greater good. Professionally, you should be cognizant of your actions and intentions since that is what determines leadership – not titles.
Leadership is about having impact, which comes in many forms.
Daenerys has impact on many people as a leader during the Liberation of Slaver’s Bay military campaign, through which she succeeds in officially abolishing the system of slavery. Despite only impacting a few people, Brienne of Tarth also exhibits leadership by offering her services to protect Sansa and teaching Podrick how to use a sword.
Ultimately, leadership is about being able to have impact on people, organizations, and society at large; this impact can come in many forms. When advancing in your career, think about the different ways in which you can have a positive effect as a leader, in both big and small ways.
There are multiple facets and qualities that encompass leadership; the ladies of Game of Thrones demonstrate many of them. What will these women teach us about leadership in the final season? We’ll have to wait and see!
Shaifali Aggarwal is a graduate of Harvard Business School, an MBA admissions expert, and the founder of Ivy Groupe, a boutique MBA admissions consulting company. Her philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out.
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Shaifali received her MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS) and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Princeton University. At HBS, Shaifali served as VP Admissions of the Women’s Student Association; in this role, she collaborated directly with the HBS Admissions Office as a liaison between current and prospective/admitted students. At Princeton, Shaifali interviewed prospective students for admission as an alumni interviewer. Through these experiences, she has had the unique opportunity to gain... Continue Reading
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