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What 'Game of Thrones' Can Teach Us About Corporate Leadership

Nilesh Makwana
Nilesh Makwana

Which fantasy leader from this hit show do you most embody?

"Game of Thrones" (GOT) has left our screens forever, but there are some lasting leadership lessons that we can take from it.

The corporate world is not so different from the world of Westeros; there can be battles in the boardroom just like the battles to take the Iron Throne – but, hopefully, with less bloodshed. Whether you're pro Lannister or Dothraki, backing the Iron Fleet or fighting for the North, or even Team White Walkers, one thing each group has in common is the fact they are all united under one leader. 

And each leader has their own distinct leadership style. Just as the characters of GOT divide and conquer, strategize or deliver empowering speeches to head their armies, so do business leaders. 

Daenerys Targaryen: The Democratic Leader 

Daenerys leads with grace and fairness – and a certain fierceness that just naturally comes with having dragons at your command. Like a true democratic leader, she is equitable in considering advice and opinions as she communicates all the way through the chain of command but still holds final decision-making responsibility. 

Mastercard president and CEO Ajay Banga could be considered an everyday democratic leader. Banga is known for being able to break down traditional barriers between executives and middle management, promoting inclusivity. Under Banga’s leadership, Mastercard ranked fourth on DiversityInc’s 2018 list of the top 50 most diverse companies and has committed to closing the gender pay gap. 

Cersei Lannister: The Autocratic Leader

Autocratic leadership is based on the idea that there is one boss, and that boss generally embodies the 'my way or the highway' mantra. Cersei is Queen, and she doesn't care what others think of her and stands by her choices. Autocratic leaders often make decisions on their own, communicate those decisions to subordinates and expect prompt execution – with little to no flexibility. 

In his time heading the Trump organization, Donald Trump has been labeled an autocratic leader.

The Night King: The Transformational Leader 

The Night King literally transforms individuals into someone else entirely. Creating change throughout an entire organization is what transformational leaders do best, often setting challenging goals at both a group and individual level to drive high performance.

The Night King wants to bring winter to all of Westeros – it's ambitious, but there is no denying that every one of his White Walkers are dedicated to fulfilling his vision, even if it means fighting to the death. Plus, he's got a dragon he's managed to convert into his band of followers. 

Not all transformational leaders are evil like the Night King, of course. Nelson Mandela is considered by some an example of transformational leadership, known for motivating his followers to achieve more by engaging with "charisma, inspiration, individualized attention and intellectual stimulation."

Jon Snow: The Servant Leader 

Jon Snow wants to serve everyone else before himself, with his actions underpinned by a strong sense of ethics and morality. A servant leader focuses on driving the growth and wellbeing of the people and communities to which they belong. 

Rather than placing power at the "top of the pyramid," the servant leader shares power, prioritizes the needs of others and seeks to develop and support individuals so that they can lift their performance to new levels. Servant leaders are also empathetic – just look at Jon Snow's relationship with Sam Tarly. 

My view is that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a servant leader who has empathy at his core. Under Satya's leadership, Microsoft's vision has become "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more." He also believes empathy makes a better innovator. 

Focusing on empathy and consciously trying to see things from others' perspectives is the leadership style I also abide by. I've also embodied karmic leadership principles, which relates to cause and effect and the notion of karma: "what goes around comes around." And so far, it's hugely benefited my business and our diverse organizational culture. 

So what type of leader are you? If you're not getting the results you want, maybe it's time to reassess and try out a new leadership style. 

Image Credit: New Vision/Shutterstock
Nilesh Makwana
Nilesh Makwana Member
I am the CEO and co-founder of IT consultancy Illuminance Solutions, which provides management solutions for businesses and nonprofits built on the Microsoft platform. Originally from India, I migrated to Australia with the hopes of combining my entrepreneurial mindset and technology skills to create a business that aligns with my passion to give back to the community. I now have a successful business with social impact at its core, providing tech solutions to a range of nonprofits, such as disability and aged care service providers, as well as member associations.