7 leadership lessons we learned from Game of Thrones

There are lessons to be learned from HBO's Game of Thrones, including the dos and don'ts of being a leader.
Game of Thrones - Jon and Daenerys
Game of Thrones - Jon and Daenerys /

Leadership is important to every team or job. A good leader will take a person with poor qualities and find ways to make them useful. On the other hand, a bad boss can get bad work out of even the best employees. They’ll feel unappreciated and their work will suffer. Both kinds of leaders exist on Game of Thrones.

You’ll rarely see a more diverse group of leaders than on Game of Thrones. They ranged from amazing to incompetent. No matter where they fell, there was something to learn from them. What leadership lessons can we take from the examples set by these seven characters?

King Joffrey Baratheon

King Joffrey Baratheon is one of the most hated people in TV history. He was a sniveling king who abused his power. He was never on the battlefield nor stood up to anyone without a loyal brute beside him. He may have been liked if he fought his own battles. Alas, he hid behind his soldiers or his mother Cersei, or cowered in a corner. That's why he was eventually killed and fans rejoiced.

Lesson: Don’t be a jerk, you’ll get poisoned

Photograph by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO /

Ramsay Bolton

King Joffrey may have been annoying, but at least he had an excuse. He was young and spoiled. Ramsay Bolton was evil. The things he did to people would make demons cry. Even the people who worked for Ramsay hated him. If that's not bad enough, he starved his dogs. That’s why his death (fed to his pooches) was appropriate.

Lesson: Don’t be cruel, you’ll get fed to your dogs

Game of Thrones - Cersei Lannister /

Cersei Lannister

You can hate Cersei Lannister all you want, but she was one of the smartest people in Westeros. When she was embarrassed and betrayed, Cersei wanted revenge. Instead of rushing, she waited for the right moment and struck. That’s how she became queen while her enemies burned in green flame.

Lesson: Patience is a virtue

Catelyn and Robb Stark

The Red Wedding shocked the world. No one could have expected the blood bath that occurred. However, a smart leader always has an exit strategy. Catelyn and Robb Stark dropped the ball and it got them killed.

Lesson: Have an exit strategy

Courtesy of HBO (2)
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen – Photo: Courtesy of HBO /

Daenerys Targaryen 

Daenerys’ madness reached its peak towards the end of Game of Thrones. Cersei surrendered, but Daenerys set her dragon loose on the city of King's Landing anyway. Fans hated this moment, but it was the culmination of her ruthless path. Plus, it was a great way to show how trauma can drive a person mad.

Lesson: Don’t kill innocent people

Helen Sloan - HBO (15) Game of Thrones
(L to R) Kristofer Hivju as Tormund and Kit Harington as Jon Snow – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO /

Tormund Giantsbane

Tormund Giantsbane is an underrated leader. He wasn’t especially smart like Tyrion Lannister or regal like Daenerys Targaryen, and he didn’t need to be. Tormund’s best quality was his loyalty. He treated his people fairly and with respect. It’s a quality every great leader should have and why his army would follow him into Hell.

Lesson: Treat your people fairly

Photograph by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO /

Petyr "Littlefinger"  Baelish

There’s a thin line between arrogance and confidence. Littlefinger didn’t just cross that line. He jumped over it. Littlefinger assumed he was smarter than everyone and could talk his way out of any situation. Unfortunately, he couldn’t talk his way out of Arya Stark’s blade across his throat. That kind of narcissism has been the downfall of many leaders.

HBO's Game of Thrones shows how a great leader can lead people to the promised land or on a path to death. These seven lessons show what to do and not to do as a leader.

Lesson: Confidence over arrogance

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