What Game of Thrones Teaches Us About Poor Leadership

Game Of Thrones
James Kenealey

by James Kenealey on


  • As the final season of Game of Thrones starts to air, we look back at the leadership traits of the many monarchs of Westeros.

  • Don't emulate these kings and queens if you want to be successful as a leader in business.

Winter is here. 

The final season of Game of Thrones is about to land on our shores, and there are a lot of theories flying around about who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne. Throughout the show, a handful of leaders have taken the throne and many more have proclaimed their right to do so. In this blog, we look at three controversial leaders who have sat on the Iron Throne, how their unique styles of leadership led to their ultimate downfall… and the lessons you shouldn’t take from Westeros to the business world. Plot spoilers for seasons 1 to 7 ahead! 

King Robert Baratheon

Robert is the sitting king as the series starts after taking the Iron Throne by force during his rebellion many years earlier. By the time of the events of the series, Robert looks and acts in a way that is far from kingly and doesn’t cut the figure of a strong leader. Perhaps unknowingly, he has realised that successfully gaining a position of authority is very different to ruling successfully. He’s disinterested, won’t take advice from those around him (even his best recruit, Ned Stark) and is prone to angry outbursts. He seems to long for the days when he didn’t have the responsibility he fought so hard to win and spends all his time eating and drinking heavily while those below him do his job for him.

As a leader, it’s important that you lead from the front. Leaders in the business world should work with their employees for the benefit of all and ensure that time engaging in recreational activities is not detrimental to productivity. Networking, awards dinners and away days are great in moderation, but shunning responsibility and leaving others to do your work will foster resentment and lose employee advocacy.

King Joffrey 'Baratheon'

Where do we start with this guy? Possibly television’s most easily-hateable character, the ill-conceived boy-king Joffrey provides a masterclass in poor, often downright cruel, leadership and manages to be an order of magnitude worse than his predecessor Robert.
For a start, he doesn’t practise what he preaches. At a time when the capital city was under attack, he chose to hide behind the walls far away from the fighting despite his grand claims about bravery and defeating his enemies. His men recognise this and completely lose heart.

In the world of business, aloof, unreliable and distant leaders are unlikely to command respect. Without reliable and conscientious leadership, employees may lack motivation to work towards the organisation’s common goals. It’s important to set the example you want to see in your workforce to inspire loyalty and achieve productivity.
Secondly, Joffrey is unbelievably cruel and rude. We’re not suggesting that any leader in any business in the real world would ever be as rude as Joffrey, but it’s important to be polite and respectful to those around you, at any level.

Queen Cersei Lannister

At the time of writing, Queen Cersei sits on the Iron Throne. Her journey there has been riddled with murder, deception, manipulation and lies… and you get the distinct impression that there’s a lot more to come. Cersei is overwhelmingly self-interested and cares nothing for her family (um, well she’s quite close with one…) or the people of the world in comparison with her own selfish desire to rule.
This is the biggest lesson we can take from Cersei. Surrounded now by people who despise her and a frighteningly short list of allies, her rule shows us that rampant self-interest might get you what you want, but at what cost?

This is echoed in the real world. Taking all the credit and praise when the organisation does well shows your employees that you’re only in it for yourself. This will make them unlikely to want to work with you again in the future. If your employees think that you will do anything to achieve personal gain, they’ll feel disposable and will likely abandon ship.

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