In the real world, we can’t have Unsullied armies, Dothraki warriors or a drunk-but-wise Lannister adviser to help us win our battles at work. On HBO’s Game of Thrones (which returned July 16) Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, has all of the above at her beck and call—but like all good leaders, she earned them the hard way. Whether she succeeds in seizing the Iron Throne or not, we can learn lessons in leadership from Daenerys and use them to navigate the political drama of our own workplace.
- Nurture those fragile egos. Daenerys know that treating minions badly isn’t just poor form, it’s bad karma. Being a good mentor and protector to your staff keeps morale high and brings you returns down the road. Daenerys treated the unsullied soldiers like humans instead of chattel and is now reaping the rewards of having a loyal army. Case in point: Former slave Missandei is now far more than Daenerys’ interpreter or handmaid … she is part of her inner circle.
- Embrace trials by fire. In the first season, Daenerys walked through her husband’s funeral pyre and not only survived, but came out even stronger, with three baby dragons in tow and the Dothrakis’ respect. Five seasons later, she did it again when a rival Dothraki horde threatened to send her to the widows’ home—career purgatory for the self-proclaimed breaker of chains. Real-world translation: No matter how tough times get, prove you can take the heat and show others you’re a fearless leader.
- You don’t make peace with your friends. Viewers cringed when Daenerys gave hunky Daario the heave-ho and chose the sniveling noble Hizdhar zo Loraq as her husband-to-be in Season 5. But hey, her rule was under threat of insurrection, and she had to make a calculated choice. As unromantic as that may be—and face it, Westeros is hardly Paris in springtime—political alliances are a necessary evil in George R.R. Martin’s dog-eat-Ramsay Bolton ] world, as well as in our own. If you deal only with people who agree with you on everything, you’re not going to move the needle much.
- In case of emergency, call in the dragons. If you’ve got the firepower, what are you waiting for? And always believe what Daenerys believes: “I am no ordinary woman, my dreams come true.”
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