5 Leadership Styles in Game of Thrones

5 Leadership Styles in Game of Thrones.png

As we approach the last 3 episodes of Game of Thrones season 8, I thought it would be fun to highlight the unique leadership styles of the remaining major characters and compare/contrast how well these attributes translate to the modern-day workplace.

While most of these characters have survived thus far, (with a few honorable mentions among the deceased), their ultimate fates, which will soon be revealed, will largely depend on attitudes and beliefs that were forged long ago.

In the end, these attitudes and beliefs will either make or break, help or hurt them.

Below you’ll find a list of 5 characters and their accompanying leadership styles; which i’ve organized from worst to best (in my opinion, of course).

Number 1 is also my pick for who may end up on the Iron Throne.

Got your own predictions? Feel free to give them a shout out below!

5. The Micromanager - Cersei Lannister

This isn’t a surprise to anyone.

One might say that Cersei Lannister’s managerial style was all but decided for her at birth. But I think that’s too easy. In retrospect, she took the Lannister name to new depths of loathing all by herself.

Her management style is most definitely rooted in micromanagement.

She thinks of everyone as a cog in the machine she operates; Chess pieces she can move at the flick of a wrist or the nod of her head.

While she famously says, “Power is power”, it’s never occurred to her that over time the Lannisters have become more feared than respected...Begging the question, once that fear is gone, what are you left with?

In the modern world, micromanagement leads to brain drain. Quite simply, you will lose your most talented men and women over time; Probably to competitors. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen…

Micromanaging does not inspire loyalty or trust. In fact what it actually says is, “I don’t trust you to do a good job”.

Incessant micromanagement may create a workforce of ‘hired hands’ who have no emotional connection to you or your brand; just like Cersei’s soldiers have no emotional connection to her house or safety.

They only care about staying alive. They follow her because she is in charge, at the moment.

4. Authoritative - Daenerys

The Mother of Dragons has had her ups and downs.

She’s gone through so much and it’s her personal story that has inspired people to follow & believe in her. But, in very Cersei-like fashion, or perhaps more like the mythical Mad King, she’s had bouts where she has revealed her baser nature; Roasting those who would defy her, including those who peacefully oppose her.

She has an unwavering sense of entitlement to her subjects’ obedience.

What’s more, imagine that the co-founder & CEO of your company didn’t have a long-term vision, and it was blatantly obvious. And, once again, everyone wanted to say something about it but no one felt safe doing so.

Quite simply, Daenerys seems to think her destiny is owed to her on account of her bloodline, title and name. That she deserves respect.

Her destiny to rule doesn’t take into account how that will affect her subsidiaries-to-be, such as the North/Winterfell. Is Sansa right not to want a merger with or acquisition by the dragon queen?

How can you expect anyone to blindly follow your rule, if the only purpose it serves is to prove who’s boss and you’re not willing to listen to other points of view?

3. Margaery Tyrell - Charismatic

One of the best analyses i’ve seen of a Game of Thrones character is Charisma on Command’s 3 Surprising Steps to Influence Anyone.

In this episode they explain why Margaery Tyrell was one of the most charismatic, and thus influential characters in the entire Game of Thrones series.

They’re right on the mark.

If there was ever a charm school in the Seven Kingdoms, Margaery would rank #1 in class.


She’ trustworthy, down-to-earth and doesn’t wear her allegiances on her sleeve. As a result she was a chameleon who was able to move in and out of crowds, regardless of house...

However, there’s something to be said for the fact that if she had Cersei’s power combined with her own charisma, she would probably still be alive now…and a contender for the Iron Throne, simply by sheer force of her own personality (I.e I can see Lannister soldiers fighting for the Tyrell’s in droves.)

Charisma builds powerful connections, while power and money make them the default.

2. Jon Snow - Inspirational  

Learning from the past mistakes of his father and brother, Jon Snow knows both the cost and payoff of being true to his word. He’s also learned how to deal with those who go against him in ways that are harsh, but often necessary.

The payoff has been good thus far.

His fellow soldiers are fiercely loyal to him now and know what to expect should they cross him.

What helps Jon is that he is your Average Joe leader.

From the Battle of the Bastards where he fought Bolton and his army to the Battle of Winterfell where he fought the white walkers, he’s been in the muck and slime with his fellow men. He’s one of them, as he’s proven that time and again.

He could rally the most down-trodden of his people to vote for him.

However, what’s hurting him at the moment is that he doesn’t always allay the worries of his loyal workers when he embarks on new partnerships. For example, what does his allegiance with Dany mean for the North? (Though, it could have been worse if the Lannister soldiers showed up on their doorstep. Old wounds die hard).

Imagine surprising your employees with a merger that will drastically affect their take-home pay and benefits.

While Jon Snow is inspirational in times of battle, his lack of Communication skills off the battlefield has led to betrayal by his own men in the past. Loyalty is earned, and keeping things from your comrades can sometimes be just as bad as lying.

Honorable Mentions

Before I get to whom i’ve chosen as the future king or queen of the Iron Throne, I wanted to highlight one character who is no longer with us but exemplifies some of the best character traits that anyone could ever have in life.

Theon Greyjoy

While he and his house have never been in contention for the throne (Though that would be a very interesting plot twist), Theon Greyjoy’s now-completed arc has shown us some of the best qualities that a leader can have.

He started off as the bad guy but perished a hero. In short, he learned the error of his ways and atoned for them.

Furthermore, a few seasons ago he decided it would be better to relinquish his claim to the Iron Islands’ throne, and allow that honor to pass on a woman (his sister, Yara Greyjoy). S imply because she was the most fit to rule.

We often hear stories of those in C-Suite or higher positions deciding to step down to a lesser role.

It’s a courageous thing to set aside one’s pride and give the reins to someone who is more fit to lead a/your company than you are. And sometimes it’s necessary. (Of course, anyone in any position, regardless of their title, can do the heroic thing and step down from a role if they know someone else can do a better job).

1. Sansa Stark -  Assertive + Charismatic

Even compared to Margaery Tyrell, Sansa Stark is one of the best representations of a character who has a genuine connection to people/her subjects.

She is the epitome of the girl-next-door ruler; a title Dany has all but shed through her latest campaigns in Westeros. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Sansa mingle with the commoners both as a commoner herself and as a queen.  

She never lost sight of who she was and it’s that authenticity that has given her street cred among her people.

As an added bonus, she is also fiercely assertive in her decision-making; which gives her more of the power we wish Margaery had.

She always has what’s best for her ‘employees’ in mind and never forgets that it is them who have allowed her to rule.

She’s learned the hard way that loyalty isn’t always repaid gratefully; (Through her own experiences as well as those she’s learned vicariously through her family).  BUT when you have a strong and gregarious relationship with your kingdom and its people, and a collective sense of what it means to be a citizen of the North, it’s harder for outsiders to buy that loyalty.

Sansa is a combination of Jon & Margaery - An extremely charismatic and relatable employer that’s more likely to meet you at the local cafe for a cup of joe than tell you to get in contact with her secretary for the next available slot.

When’s the last time you saw Cersei speak to a commoner in a non-condescending way?

So there you have it.

Whether we’re talking about pedigree or learned behavior, every Game of Thrones character has their own unique set of traits that has helped them survive thus far.

But as with anything, it’s in not finding the proper balance and having a deficit or surplus of certain traits that has led to the demise of some.

If you want to be a good leader you need a mix of flexibility and tenacity, strength and vulnerability, and other classic polar opposites that often seem in opposition. But they each help to cancel out the dangers of excess and lack.

The ebb and flow of your words and actions should always help you build rapport with your workforce, first and foremost.