World Monitor Magazine, Economy WM_April 2019 web version (2) - Page 67

additional content ground. It is the realm of thoughtful decision making, with a full appreciation of other people’s values and beliefs. If you decide to play the game of business, learn to understand and leverage your abilities in this middle ground. At least two of the stories from the series can help you play to win. Ned Stark’s values hierarchy At the start of the Game of Thrones storyline, Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, the warden of the North, faces significant leadership challenges. It starts when his old friend King Robert Baratheon (Cersei’s husband) requests his services as the king’s hand — a position equivalent to the royal chief of staff. “I want you down in King’s Landing [the capital city],” says Robert, “not up here at the end of the world where you are no damned use to anybody.” Ned travels with his daughters into a city full of potential allies and enemies. Exhausted and hungry, he arrives just as an urgent meeting of the king’s closest advisors, the Small Council, is beginning. The king has warned Ned that some council members were flatterers and some were fools. As soon as he takes his seat, writes Martin, “He thought he knew [which were which] already.” Ned thus makes a mistake that many leaders make. He reacts instinctively to his new subordinates, guided by his personal values. The Starks, his aristocratic family, are known throughout Westeros as transparent to others, authentic, and accountable. Their character is exemplified by the wisdom he shares with his son Bran: “[The Starks] hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words.” Ned doesn’t realize that others hold different values — or, even if they share his values, present themselves with less transparency. In this context, the term values relates not to corporate or organizational values but to the assumptions and beliefs that drive our behavior. These usually operate at a subconscious level, and are shaped by how we interpret the lessons of our lives. Following our values often brings out the best in us as leaders, driving our motivation and commitment. But values can also drive us to behave counterproductively, without being aware of it. The more clarity we can elicit about how our values affect our leadership, the better. For example, Ned’s values trigger a disastrous argument with his boss, King Robert. At first, it seems as though there should be no conflict. They were brothers-in-arms during Robert’s Rebellion, the insurrection that overthrew the previous despotic “Mad King,” and they both believe strongly in courage and honor. But as social psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz has documented, people who hold similar values assign different degrees of importance to them. The prioritizing that each person does, usually subconsciously, is called a “values hierarchy.” In his influential work, Schwartz explains that there are six main features to values: (1) We believe in values and have emotional reactions to them; (2) they drive our actions; (3) we believe in them despite what outside norms are encouraged; (4) they are the way we decide what is good or bad, justified or unjustified; (5) they exist in hierarchies; and (6) we base our actions on trade-offs determined by how we evaluate competing values. While Robert and Ned share two important values, they prioritize them in different ways. Ned’s values hierarchy might be written as duty, then honor, then courage, then family. Robert’s might be courage, then reward, then honor, then camaraderie. Family would probably not appear on Robert’s list of values, as shown by his marginalization of his brother Stannis, his limited regard for the children he believes are his own with Cersei, and his complete disregard for his illegitimate children. Ned’s own values keep him from seeing how important this aspect of Robert’s temperament will be. Shortly after Ned joins the Small Council, they learn that Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled teenage daughter of the Mad King they deposed, is married to a faraway Dothraki (barbarian) horse lord and pregnant with a potential heir who could challenge Robert’s rule. Robert proposes to send an assassin to kill her and the unborn infant. Lord Stark takes immediate umbrage at the idea; murdering children is, in his view, dishonorable. The potential exists for the king and his hand to find common ground and work out an agreement, but as their values are called into question, both men become angry. King Robert is particularly offended because he thinks Ned is challenging his courage. The two allies fall into a public, destabilizing argument that leaves them both vulnerable to their more immediate enemy, Queen Cersei. Could the drama play out any other way? One of the compelling aspects of Game of Thrones is that a different outcome always seems possible if only the main characters were a bit more self-aware. For example, Ned doesn’t realize how his own biases make him vulnerable. In one memorable scene, Lord Varys, the “master of whisperers,” approaches Ned in disguise and shares confidential information with him, alluding to plots supported by EUROBAK 65