Leadership lessons from “Game of Thrones” – part 2

There has been a big response to my first blog about “Game of Thrones” – it obviously struck a chord with readers, so I thought I’d continue the theme. If you missed part 1, read here

So, let’s continue the leadership lessons with Eddard Stark. As appointed “Hand of the King”, Eddard and the Council run the kingdom while the King enjoys the rewards of his station.  We see that Eddard is fiercely loyal, honourable and always believes in following his values or “doing what is right”.

Eddard finds himself in a royal court buzzing with intrigue and politics. Despite Eddard’s admirable qualities and values, he is way out of his depth.  Eddard lacks the skill that would have likely prevented him from losing his head – political intelligence.

Research used by 3D Training & Development shows that over 70% or people who work in organisations associate “politics” with negative experiences. There are very few organisations where political behaviour is not present and it has a major impact on people – their careers, motivation, ability to do their jobs effectively etc.

Eddard was simply too trusting, to open and too merciful. When he discovered that the Queen had been consistently unfaithful and that none of her children were fathered by the King, Eddard confronted her and gave her the opportunity to flee with her children before he told the King. Before Eddard could see the King, the King was dead (gored by a boar, but likely assisted along by the Queen) and the Queen’s son Joffrey was crowned.  Eddard confronted Joffrey and the Queen, confident that he was supported by key members of the council, but they all turned on him and he was beheaded for treason.

Eddard faced the very worst of political behaviour – deal making, lies, betrayals, conspiracies, backstabbing and ultimately destruction of those standing in the way. Sometimes organisational politics can feel very like this (without the actual beheading part). So can politics be positive? A report from Roffey Park Institute in 2004 found effective strategists, skilful influencers and powerful leaders use politics to achieve beneficial outcomes for others as well as themselves:

  • To make things happen
  • To unblock barriers to change
  • To create greater buy in to key projects
  • To produce greater organisational cohesion
  • To speed up decision making

What are some of the characteristics of good political intelligence that might have saved Eddard? People with high political intelligence:

  • Know where the power really lies.
  • Understand that there are many long term benefits in keeping people on side.
  • Are comfortable doing favours and asking for favours in return – the language of mutual benefit and collaboration.
  • Realise that total openness may not be appropriate in all situations.
  • Understand that things are not always black and white.
  • Know it is important to pick the right time and he right place to deal with a difficult issue.
  • Network very effectively and review their networks constantly.

So you can see that Eddard Stark might well have survived had he used some of these tactics.

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2 replies on “Leadership lessons from “Game of Thrones” – part 2”

I believe that politics is a requirement to getting things done. Without the “wheeling and dealing” that occurs in politics, there would likely be a deadlock on most, if not all, issues. Most people only see what they want to see out of the political game and it’s usually not good. But, if they were to dig deeper, they would be able to see how it really moves things along.

Not sure I can get behind this thought of politics. It sounds like people taking “positions” vs. finding interests.

Or people seeing how they “think it should” be vs. acceptance.

Taking positions and feeling you have the “right” answers are dangerous in today’s world. Acceptance, transparency, and honesty are what will drive the next wave of economic and political success. Yet, I understand that politics are still at play in today’s world. They are just being transcended by those with high awareness and by those who are brave.

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