People 'n' Issues

Be a corporate Khaleesi

September 11th, 2017
We often learn from art - even though it is sometimes far fetched. GUY MARTIN, CEO of Blueprints, describes how Khaleesi’s rise to power in Game of Thrones can be applied to the corporate world.
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If you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, you’re probably wondering what Khaleesi is. Even if you are, you might well be puzzling over the connection between the Mother of Dragons and the boardroom.

So, let us explain. Khaleesi – or Daenerys Targaryen – is one of the most inspiring and iconic characters in popular culture. Here’s a bit of back story: the daughter of the wicked king of the fictional Westeros, she is exiled for her own safety while still a baby, and sold to the fearsome Dothraki clan, to become wife (Khaleesi) to their king (Khal Drogo). After he dies, she emerges as a monarch in her own right, going on to conquer clans in other parts of the world, freeing slaves and generally gaining fans wherever she goes.

So, yes, it’s all very far-fetched – but, since we can often learn from art, there are a few lessons here to help today’s organisational leaders. Here we go:

  • Daenerys embodies servant leadership. She styles herself as “the breaker of chains”, making decisions that will benefit the greater good. Because of this, one of her followers notes that she is not a queen because “because she’s the daughter of some king we never knew. She’s the queen because we chose her.”
  • She invites input from those around her. Although she makes the final decisions, Daenerys always asks her Hand (Tyrion Lannister) and advisers (Grey Worm and Missandei) what they believe to be the best course of action.
  • She has a strong moral standpoint. One of the turning points in Daenerys Targaryen’s life is when she is crowned leader of the land of Meereen. Notorious for its practise of slaving, she takes on the slavers and determines to set free the indentured, on the strength of her insistence that slavery is wrong.
  • She surrounds herself with a strong team who represent different viewpoints. The reason she feels so comfortable taking the advice of her council is because she has implicit trust in them. She’s made sure she has the strongest team to support her (you don’t get stronger team mates than dragons, right?).
  • Daenerys isn’t scared to make difficult decisions; sometimes risky ones. But that’s after she’s weighed up the pros and cons, and asked the experts what they think.

Quality leadership in fantasy, which by association display the necessary quality leadership traits for a CEO in modern corporate reality. Is she the ultimate transformational leader of our time? Quite possibly. But even if she’s not, she still gets to ride dragons – and that’s pretty amazing.

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