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  • Writer's pictureJerry Manas

A Leadership Lesson from Game of Thrones

Originally posted on November 22, 2016

So I've decided to start a new blog.  Expect to see tidbits from my books, lessons on leadership, planning, and execution, and of course, the occasional pop culture reference--since I am, after all, a pop culture junkie.

I'll be blogging about resource management and capacity planning; lessons from historical figures; breakthrough methods in project and portfolio management; organizational change; insights from the land of science, film, and TV; and more.

First up is a lesson from the ever-popular TV series, Game of Thrones.

First, it helps to picture the scene.

Tywin Lannister, patriarch of the powerful Lannister family, approaches his young, naïve grandson, Tommen, who is about to be named the new King upon the death of his brother, the wicked child-tyrant, King Joffrey.

Following is the dialogue between the two:

Tywin: Your brother is dead. Do you know what that means? I’m not trying to trick you.

Tommen: It means I’ll become king.

Tywin: Yes, you will become king. What kind of king do you think you’ll be?

Tommen: A good king?

Tywin: Hmm, I think so as well. You’ve got the right temperament for it. But what makes a good king? Hmm? What is a good king’s single most important quality?

Tommen: Holiness?

Tywin: Hmm. Baelor the Blessed was holy. And pious. He built this sept. He also named a six-year-old boy High Septon because he thought the boy could work miracles. He ended up fasting himself into an early grave because ‘food was of this world, and this world was sinful’.

Tommen: Justice?

Tywin: [nods] A good king must be just. Orys the first was just. Everyone applauded his reforms, nobles and commoners alike. He was murdered in his sleep after less than a year, by his own brother. Was that truly just of him, to abandon his subjects to an evil he was too gullible to recognize?

Tommen: No.

Tywin: [Tywin shakes his head in agreement] No.

Tommen: What about strength?

Tywin: [Tywin nods his head approvingly] Yes. Strength. King Robert was strong. He won the rebellion and crushed the Targaryen Dynasty. [Tywin’s voice shifts to sneering condescension] And he attended three small council meetings in seventeen years. He spent his time whoring, and hunting and drinking… until the last two killed him. So, we have a man who starves himself to death; a man who lets his own brother murder him; and a man who thinks that winning and ruling are the same thing. What do they all lack?

Tommen: Wisdom!

Tywin: Yes!

Tommen: Wisdom is what makes a good king.

Tywin: Yes. But what is wisdom? Hmm?

[Tommen is silent]

Tywin: A house with great wealth and fertile lands asks you for your protection against another with a strong navy that could one day oppose you. How do you know which choice is wise and which isn’t?

[Tommen looks at Tywin blankly without uttering a reply]

Tywin: You’ve any experience with treasuries and granaries, or shipyards and soldiers?

Tommen: No. [the Prince admits defeatedly]

Tywin: No. Of course not. A wise king knows what he knows and what he doesn’t. You’re young. A wise young king listens to his counselors and heeds their advice until he comes of age. And the wisest kings continue to listen to them long afterwards. Your brother was not a wise king. Your brother was not a good king. If he had been, perhaps he’d still be alive.

[Tywin approaches his grandson and leads him by his arm to exit as they speak]


As we can see from this, one of the most important lessons for leaders, project managers, and executives is to understand and appreciate what they don’t know and seek regular guidance from those who do. This is true for any level of experience. And it’s why the best leaders and managers surround themselves with a well-balanced core team and seek consulting advice where it makes sense. It’s also why executives have an advisory board, participate in peer forums, and attend conferences.

I’d like to use this blog to not only share the insights I’ve accumulated over the years, both experiential and through research, but to generate active discussion around the issues that commonly plague C-Suite executives, PMO leaders, product and service managers, functional managers, and project managers.

We’ll discuss issues such as: too much work and not enough resources; low morale; lack of customer loyalty; a failure to deliver value; lack of capacity to innovate; inadequate planning and prioritization; and more.

And if it’s entertaining along the way, that can’t be a bad thing, right?


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