From an HR Perspective, Did Game of Thrones Make the Right Leadership Choice?

HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones has ended and we now know who has ascended to Protector of the Realm.  While much has been written about whether the wrap-up of the show was sufficiently satisfying, we will focus (as is our custom) on the human resources and employment law lessons to be derived.

In reality (can that word properly be used in the context of this show?) the quest to sit on the Iron Throne was very much akin to an extended job interview for a chief executive position.  As the series unfolded over eight seasons, the leading candidates answered many questions about their views on leadership.  They also demonstrated their management skills in a variety of challenging scenarios.  Overall, they revealed much about their character and suitability for a senior leadership spot.

If this was an interview for Chief Executive Officer, let’s review the candidates and see if the right person got the job:

(****SPOILER ALERT**** If you are that one person on the face of the earth who has followed the show but does not yet know how it ended, stop reading right now!)

Daenerys Targaryen

As the show progressed, Daenerys emerged as the odds-on favorite.  She spoke commendably of enabling her workers and breaking the chains that inhibited them from reaching their full potential.  She sought unity and inspired loyalty. Ultimately, however, her scorched earth methods of rebuilding organizations proved too divisive for a chief executive.  A careful evaluation of her background would have revealed a troubling pattern of destructive behavior such that the best decision would be not to allow her candidacy to drag on any further.

Jon Snow

His candidacy for the top job was dead at one point but was subsequently revived to place him in the role of a top contender.  Indeed, it seemed as if he was born for the role of chief executive, yet he frequently protested “I don’t want the job.” Hiring someone for a job they do not want is almost always a bad decision so it was best that he not be hired in this instance.  Still, he would have proved useful in some other management position, especially given his adeptness for handling difficult terminations.

Tyrion Lannister

A worthy candidate who overcame a difficult family background and used his keen intellect to ascend to a position of authority and respect. However, his response to stressful circumstances was almost always to ask “Where is the wine?” There is nothing wrong with drinking wine but a chief executive who never allows himself to be out of reach of a full cask probably is not a good look for any organization.

Cersei Lannister

Not collaborative.  Big on nepotism.  More interested in having power than in using that power to benefit others.  Cersei’s aggressively top-down leadership style probably would not be a good fit in most modern organizations.

Bran Stark

Probably the most controversial candidate.  Some would see him saw him as a visionary for whom people would go (quite literally) to the ends of the earth.  Others might suggest that he is “that guy” – the one who does none of the work in a group project but takes all of the credit.  The one who does nothing but roll his eyes when anyone talks.  The one who always thinks he knows more than anyone else in the room.  Would you gamble on hiring him knowing that the perceptions of the latter group might be accurate?

Sansa Stark

Our choice for the best candidate.  She overcame adversity (so much adversity!) and grew stronger, wiser and more insightful with each passing year.  Sansa was a great problem-solver, understood people’s motivations better than anyone on the show and inspired loyalty and admiration from those she led. If Game of Thrones was a job interview for a Chief Executive Officer, we think these qualities made her the clear choice.

Bottom Line

Once you got past the dragons, the beheadings and the breathtaking ruthlessness, Game of Thrones offered useful insights on a variety of workplace-related issues like leadership, loyalty and conflict resolution.

Feel free to contact Dennis Merley if you have a different view on who should have been hired in the C-suite on Game of Thrones.