Scott Young, chair of DePaul University’s Department of Management, teaches a popular elective course on “Management at the Movies.” Here he analyzes the leadership abilities and management styles of several characters from the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” For those who haven’t watched the series yet, *spoiler alert !*
The HBO series “Game of Thrones” (GOT), based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, offers a cast of characters with varying degrees of leadership qualities. For those unfamiliar with the show, it takes place in an imaginary medieval world, where zombies exist in tandem with swordplay and debauchery. The main plotline focuses on a civil war among the noble houses of the fictional continents of Westros and Essos for the ultimate CEO job, the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. It is not at all a family show. It has attracted a huge audience. Martin’s characters are vividly drawn, with several plots unveiling and leading to a crescendo that hopefully does not end in another wedding.
Here is my take on the leadership qualities of some of the leading characters: (Scale: 10 = OUTSTANDING 0 = TERRIBLE)
Joffrey Baratheon: Leadership Ability: 0
Joffrey is an example of the worst thing that can happen in a society ruled by a monarchy – the king is deranged and evil. Joffrey is one of the most despicable characters in television history, a young boy who delights in beheading his fiancé’s father. He abuses what is termed “Position Power,” power achieved by virtue of one’s job title. It begs the question, “What would happen to a family business if the founder’s heir was an idiot?”
Cersei Baratheon: Leadership Ability: 8
Cersei is about as likeable and evil as her son, but she does have the ability to strengthen her position through a network of deceit. She is ruthlessly ambitious for her son, rather like Lady Macbeth. In today’s world, if Cersei were confronted with a glass ceiling, she would remove the ceiling and then assassinate the movers. She employs a mainstain powerplay most wicked mothers wield—the capacity to punish.
Tywin Lannister: Leadership Ability: 9
Tywin, the father of Cersei, Tyrion and Jaime, and grandfather of Joffrey, is an able military commander who manages to control, to a certain degree, his children. He has to look the other way when it comes to the relationship between Cersei and Jaime. He uses what we know as “Expert” power, with his knowledge of military strategy to protect the realm.
Tyrion Lannister: Leadership Ability: 10
Tyrion’s diminutive size only seems to magnify his political savvy. He is courageous and not afraid, as Joffrey was, to engage in hand-to-hand combat in battle. No one does a better job of managing information through a network of spies. Although he is the most astute of all the lead characters, he has no real power and is at the mercy of his father and sister in the family hierarchy.
Jaime Lannister: Leadership Ability: 7
In the early episodes, Jaime was as despicable as his sister, but after his capture and the loss of his sword hand, he has become more humble and almost likeable. He had a reputation as a ferocious soldier and derived personal power from that, but he possesses a fatal flaw—his weakness is his love for his sister.
Eddard Stark: Leadership Ability: 6
In Lord Stark we have a leader who fails to read the tea leaves. An able military commander, this political naivety costs him his head. He was completely outwitted by the Lannisters and did not notice the secret movements that Cersei Baratheon employed.
Daenerys Targaryen: Leadership Ability: 10
If Daenerys were a modern political figure, she could probably run for president and win. She has such a charismatic aura that she attracts a loyal following. She also has three dragons that can destroy entire villages. That makes her a Superwoman. She is known as the “Breaker of Chains” for freeing slaves from the villages she has conquered and giving them the choice to follow her. She represents a “Transformational Leader”—one who uses inspirational motivation to lead.
Who Will Win the Iron Throne?
The leaders of the families vying for the throne all have their flaws and foibles. This is what makes GOT so intriguing. The end of the story has yet to be written (Martin still hasn’t finished the books.) So the winning family is still up for grabs.
Most viewers want both Joffrey and Cersei dead in the most painful manner possible. I personally hope that one of Daenerys dragons roasts Cersei like a human marshmallow. It would be nice if Tyrion survives and reunites with his true love, and becomes Prime Minister, or at least the GOT equivalent. It would also be cool if Jaime lives happily ever after with his Amazonian bodyguard, and opens a sword fighting school in the village.
Then there is the bastard Jon Snow, also a good guy, and his two sisters. What will happen to them? A great scenario would find Jon and his sisters joining forces with Daenerys, overthrowing the Lannister/Baratheon bandwagon and feasting on Cersei s’mores.
One thing is certain, there will not be a happy ending for all and not all of the characters will make it through the series. In one episode last season, Martin wiped out half the cast in one wedding. It probably went a long way to reducing the payroll of GOT.