World Monitor Magazine, Economy WM_April 2019 web version (2) - Page 66

additional content Leadership lessons from Game of Thrones Paying attention to your values and persuasion style can help you avoid getting beheaded or stabbed to death. by Bruce Craven Leadership is difficult but necessary. The achievement of good results requires the willingness to confront challenges and guide yourself and your colleagues. In recent years, I have used the fictional stories from George R.R. Martin’s series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the HBO adaptation Game of Thrones, in my MBA and executive MBA elective course “Leadership Through Fiction” at Columbia Business School. The leadership decisions made by the characters in Game of Thrones sometimes result in devastating consequences, but the characters who survive learn how to improve their decisions and navigate risks more effectively. (For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to the TV series and the books interchangeably; although they differ in some key ways, they are closely enough aligned to provide the examples used here.) The narrative in Game of Thrones is derived in part from myth (dragons, sorcery, and the reanimated dead are all elements of the story) and in part from history. It draws on and amplifies many past chronicles of leadership dilemmas and reversals. What looks like a reasonable decision at first can result in trusting the wrong person and being publicly executed. In our own world, we may not face literal execution, but we often must make decisions with similarly wrenching tensions and unpredictable results. We may see our projects falter or our companies founder, and the fortunes of our families, communities, and broader economies may be at stake. As leaders, we have more capability to manage this tension than we may think — especially if we can keep our perspective. In the first season of the series, Cersei Lannister (queen of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, where most of the story takes place) tells Ned Stark, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” The queen is wrong — both in her fictional world, and in ours. There is a middle 64 world monitor