This is a new recurrent feature taking an unserious look at leadership lessons from George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series. BE FOREWARNED: THIS ENTIRE SERIES MAY BE ONE GIANT SPOILER. I WILL DRAW UPON WHATEVER QUOTES FROM THE FIRST 5 BOOKS OF THE SERIES I SEE FIT. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
As a rising young leader, I’m often asked where I draw my inspiration from. You might think I hearken back to the Founding Fathers. Yet while I hold those guys in the highest esteem, I sometimes have a hard time connecting the lessons of their leadership to my own day to day challenges: building consensus, navigating a complex bureaucracy, avoiding political pitfalls; in those times, I turn to more practical role models, the kind with concrete tools in their tookit. Tools like a ridiculously large warhammer.
3 Lessons from King Robert
King Robert is an archetypal leader. He rose to the throne on a wave of personal passion, conquered through bold and daring risk taking, and relied on the strength of his own two arms. Here’s a look at a few of his values and one of his flaws.
1. Find Your Voice.
" …a commander needs a good battlefield voice, and Robert had proved the truth of that on the Trident. He used that voice now. “STOP THIS MADNESS,” he boomed, “IN THE NAME OF YOUR KING!”
How many times a week do you find yourself wishing you could say exactly that? Robert is all about leading from the front, and leading from the front means making your authentic voice heard. While it helps to have a good set of lungs on you, it doesn’t hurt to invest the time and preparation in your message that conveys respect for your audience, your subject matter, and yourself.
2. Know Your Weaknesses, and Hire to Address Them.
“Laws are a tedious business and counting coppers is worse...you helped me win this damnable throne, now help me hold it."
One of Robert’s strengths is that he’s quite self-aware: he knows what he wants, what he likes, and what he’s good at. He’s equally clear about the things he doesn’t like. Fortunately he has the good sense to hire to compensate for many of his weaknesses; having cultivated a lifelong relationship with Ned Stark, he’s able to hire an excellent Deputy (albeit one with a few flaws of his own).
Unfortunately for Robert, one good hire isn’t enough to rectify some of his other personnel issues. He’s inherited some staff of questionable loyalty, and and his indifference has resulted in some bad hiring decisions.
3. Pragmatism and Making Difficult Decisions.
"Do you think honor keeps them in line? Do you think it’s honor that’s keeping the peace? It’s fear. Fear and blood."
[SPOILER ALERT] Upon learning that Danerys is still alive, Robert angrily orders her death. While Ned is taken aback at the ruthlessness of the action, Robert chastises him for putting abstract ideals above the facts at hand.
Leadership Pitfall: The Peter Principle
Sadly, Robert is rather misaligned to the core competencies of his position; he’s indifferent to governance and is a good example of the dreaded Peter Principle, having been promoted 1 job too high. Robert was a fabled general, but he’s just not a good match for the Iron Throne. In his defense, the interview process was nothing like the job; thankfully they only do that in fantasy books.
Here's a bit more of King Robert in his own words; Happy Friday GL!
Dave Uejio is the President of Young Government Leaders, the professional association for aspiring government leaders. Join today at http://www.younggov.org.