What lessons does the HBO series “Game of Thrones” have for maintaining your integrity at work? Certainly, no company is quite as cutthroat and corrupt as the mythical Kingdom of Westeros. But the way some of the players have behaved in the series provides some guidance for anyone when they have to deal with conflict at the office.
The too trusting Eddard Stark
On one extreme is Eddard Stark, noble, virtuous, capable, the kind of leader that anyone would want to follow. Eddard’s fatal flaw is that he underestimates the lengths to which some of the other players will go to maintain and strengthen their positions. When Eddard prepares to move against Cersei Lannister, he tells her ahead of time to give her a chance to leave quietly. Instead, she moves against him, resulting in his head is being cut off and being used to decorate the walls of the city of Kings Landing. The lesson, therefore, is that you should never underestimate someone with whom you have a workplace conflict. Some are quite capable of lying and cheating to undermine you.
The boss from hell, Cersei
The afore-mentioned Cersei is a real piece of work, a boss from hell. Paranoid, ruthless, with the approach to politics, that “you win or die,” she strikes out at enemies, perceived or real, with the result that her feeling that everyone is out to get her is self-fulfilling. The lesson here is that you should not try to win at all costs nor perceive everyone as a potential enemy. You cultivate the reputation that you can be a friend to anyone who will advance the best interests of the company.
Tyrion, he wants what’s best
Cersei’s little brother, Tyrion, represents a middle ground between her and Eddard. He is cynical and angry, but he sincerely wants what is best for the common people of Westeros. His slogan is “I drink, and I know things.” Of course drinking in the workplace should never be encouraged, we aren’t living in the same era as “Mad Men,” but knowing what is going on, with an unbiased eye, is key to navigating office politics while maintaining your integrity.
Daenerys, a true leader with integrity
The greatest example of what a leader should be is Daenerys, who, unique from all the players in the Game of Thrones, has a vision for how things should be and a clear plan of how to achieve it. She is a change maker, which she proves when she ends the practice of slavery in the lands across the sea from Westeros. She makes mistakes but learns from them. Above all, she leads by providing inspiration and by cultivating allies, including the cynical Tyrion who, much to his surprise, comes to believe in her cause. She maintains her integrity at work (er…in her kingdom) by being the most fearsome of enemies, but also the greatest of friends. Daenerys is an all too rare character who does not seek power for her own sake or self-aggrandizement, but for the good of the kingdom. That is a good attitude to cultivate, whether you are a medieval ruler in a fantasy kingdom or a manager in a modern corporation.