World Monitor Magazine, Economy WM_April 2019 web version (2) - Page 71

additional content Bolton, Theon Greyjoy, and Tywin Lannister. But there are a number of ultimately heroic leaders in Westeros: people like Daenerys Targaryen, Samwell Tarly, Davos Seaworth, Lord Varys, Tyrion Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Jorah Mormont, and the surviving Stark siblings: Sansa, Bran, and Arya. The leaders in Game of Thrones are compelling examples because they are imperfect, under enormous stress, and dedicated to delivering results beyond their own individual betterment. Each, in his or her own way, is driven to improve the world. Leadership — for them, and for true leaders in our world — isn’t about winning, about having followers, or about fulfilling our wants and desires. It is about service. It involves the ability to dance in different roles, delivering what is needed. It also involves the ability to live out a story that others will tell, and to inspire transformation in people’s lives. The leaders in Game of Thrones are compelling examples because they are imperfect, under enormous stress, and dedicated to delivering results beyond their own individual betterment Daenerys Targaryen is perhaps the most compelling example of such a leader. She is the exiled daughter of royalty. Her life since childhood has been a path of tragic episodes and constant threat. She has confronted these challenges by leading herself to discover and pursue her purpose and develop her leadership skills accordingly. These skills include managing a large and contentious group of advisors and soldiers, and (as the “mother of dragons”) learning to tame and ride the once-mythical creatures that she has raised from their eggs. She must also continuously learn to tame her own impulses. Her values hierarchy, from strongest to weakest, includes freedom, power, courage, responsibility, and equality. These values compel her not just to assemble and lead a conquering army, but to change the world for the better: to bring improvement to the lives of the poor, the vulnerable, and the disenfranchised. She famously says that her goal is to “break the wheel”: to stop the cycle of wealthy families that fight their way to the top and crush those beneath them in the process. Toward the end of the series, as Daenerys gets closer to attaining the iron throne (on which the royal leader of Westeros sits), she learns about a greater challenge to the vulnerable: the “Night King” in the North and his army of wights. How will the mother of dragons lead as winter arrives in Westeros? She and her allies — a team that has slowly and painfully come together — do not face an easy path or simple decisions. Yet this team seems to offer the only chance for humanity to survive. In other words, everything depends on their ability to muster effective, courageous leadership — and Daenerys’s ability to lead the leaders. What can we learn from their challenges and opportunities? The Song of Ice and Fire narrative isn’t quite over, so we can’t say for sure. But there is one lesson to take to heart. If you must face a difficult challenge — your own equivalent to White Walkers and wights — then accept that challenge and face it. You will make mistakes. You will stumble. Fear will overwhelm you. But this is your chance to commit to what is important and pursue what matters. Dedicate yourself to seeking what you can bring back to your community. Those of us who aspire to be better leaders tend to reach a moment when we understand our presence more completely. There is no time that is better or more pure. We are free. We have made mistakes and bad decisions. We have felt regret and remorse. But we can remember the moment when Tyrion Lannister protests that the murders he has committed — of his lover and his father — should disqualify him as a compassionate leader. Replies Lord Varys: “I never said you were perfect.” We can’t expect perfection, but we can expect adventure…in a form that meets and matches our commitment. Author Profile: • Bruce Craven is the director of Columbia Business School’s Advanced Management Program, where he also teaches the popular elective Leadership Through Fiction. He has taught workshops on resilience and flexible thinking for organizations in the United States and Europe. • Also contributing to this article was strategy+business contributing editor Juliette Powell. • Adapted from Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones, by Bruce Craven. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press. by Strategy+Business supported by EUROBAK 69