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3 Leadership Lessons Inspired by the ‘Mother of Dragons’ from ‘Game of Thrones’ (SPOILER ALERT)

Sure, there are a lot of reasons to love the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones” — The Power Plays (the struggle for the Iron Throne and the seven kingdoms that come with it), Direwolves, ZOMBIES (a.k.a White Walkers), GIANTS, Tyrion Lannister, and of course the DRAGONS, just naming a few. But the most compelling reason of all is this little white-haired, blue-eyed Dothraki Queen, Daenerys Targaryen (a.k.a Dany played by Emilia Clarke). Not only did she rise from being an unwilling wife to the leader, the Khal, of a nomadic horse-mounted warrior group, to being the leader, the Khaleesi, and eventually with a whole ton of men who gladly laid down their life to serve in her army; she is also the mother to three nearly full-grown DRAGONS (BTW, Season 6 has just started).
The path to leadership from the meek girl she was in the beginning of the series (when her older brother Viserys trades her to Khal Drogo in exchange for an army of 40,000 men), to the strong inspirational leader she proved herself to be now, has been one of the most enjoyable to watch on the show. #TeamDany FTW!

Working ‘Your Way Up from the Bottom’ Breeds Admiration & Respect

To being admired and respect in a leadership position in today’s democratic world comes from a history of imperfection; your success through trails and hardships. Rarely does anyone respect entitlement.
A title, position, and corner office may earn them extra pay and benefits, but respect is something that does not automatically come with a leadership position. This has to be earned and is one of the most difficult entities for a leader to acquire. Respected leaders are not always liked by everyone and not always popular.
Daenerys Stormborn, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons and Dragon Tamer.
And each title is based on achievement that she earned, rather than being based on affiliation or entitlement. She shares her vision with her audience, she communicates it periodically and effectively, she stands by her values, and she walks the talk — persevering through an uncomfortable situation for a period of time (particularly during a resource crunch). It started with allegiance from the Dorkathi clan who have rarely been united, particularly by a woman, to the unsullied of Meereen who experience “choice” for the first time because of her, and now finally from the likes of Tyrion, who like all wise men is a great cynic. Isn’t that the ultimate stamp of legitimacy?
There are many stories of successful people from humble beginnings, toiling through hardships and failure, their stories of pain, struggle to their eventual triumph, earning the respect of millions, in a way, similar to Dany from Game of Thrones, such as:

It just goes to show that if you take your inspiration from Dany, you can be successful with hard work, dedication, commitment with the ‘never say die’ attitude. It will take great sacrifices, and it may take many years, and many failures. But these stories of hardships will legitimize your leadership position, earning you respect from the ground.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

Just take a look and see how Dany has changed and advanced. She has blossomed into a spectacular woman who it can easily be argued is confident, powerful, kind hearted, and fearless. But if we look at how she is now, it is all too easy to forget the terrible pain and suffering she has had to endure along the way:

  • Her mother and family (her father is King Aerys II Targaryen who lost the Iron Throne) were all killed during Robert’s Rebellion.
  • She was constantly hit and manipulated by her brother Viserys.
  • She was then sold into marriage and initially effectively forced to have sex with Khal Drogo.
  • Her last surviving family, her brother Viserys was then killed.
  • Although she later fell in love with Khal Drogo, not only did she lose her baby, but she also lost Khal Drogo who ultimately died.
  • She nevertheless humbles herself and goes to great lengths to fit in with the Dothraki people, including eating the heart of a Stallion!
  • She has had to lead her people across deserts and wastelands and has endured multiple assassination attempts on her life.
  • She has been held captive by the Warlock Pyat Pree and constantly subjected to verbal insults.
  • She has had difficulty keeping control of her three dragons all whilst planning and executing multiple assaults and battles across different cities.

Nevertheless, everything she has had to endure has ultimately made her stronger, wiser, more experienced, and confident. She has endured the pain and suffering and channelled it into her strengths. When we fail at something, get rejected for a job, or even lose a family, friend, partner, we often feel overwhelmed with sadness, pain, and suffering.
If Dany could overcome everything to rise above adversity, we could all learn a thing or two from her. While Dany may be fictional character, there are millions of people around the world who have, at one time or other, suffered through harrowing experiences but emerged from it stronger. For example, Oprah Winfrey was sexually and physically abused at a young age during a time when being a person of colour still had some social stigma attached. She lost her child 2 weeks after being born, and received little love from her mother. Nonetheless she persevered through these tribulations and is a household name today worth billions.
You have to channel your sadness, pain, and suffering and over time transform it into your strength. In the end you will become stronger.

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

In the seven kingdoms, you need either warfare superiority or exceptional political shrewdness, preferably a good mix of both, to have a long reign. While she has shown immense valour and fairness, our khaleesi still lacked diplomacy, military skills, and street smartness to execute on her vision. She may be growing queenlier by the day, but she is astute enough to realise she cannot rule alone. Therein lies the next important management strategy: establishing a solid core team to mitigate the weaknesses of the management unit.
The Mother of Dragons identifies her vulnerabilities and takes care to surround herself with people (and dragons!) who possess the skills she lacks to complements her weaknesses. To lead effectively, you need a certain amount of self-belief, and a dusting of charisma will help too. But with the humility to know one’s limitations and the ability to assemble a great team, you’ll go much further.
Her winning core team includes (and/or included):

  • Tyrion Lannister — the experienced strategist who brings political wisdom of the seven kingdoms. Although not trained directly, but he has grown up around the master politician Tywin Lannister himself. He is well read, witty, and a smooth talker who has saved several lives just by talking.
  • Ser Jorah Mormont — the brooding and heroic knight, who lost his trustworthiness a few seasons back when it was revealed that he was actually a Westeros spy. But he proved his worth yet again by overcoming numerous hurdles and crossing the narrow sea all of season 4 just to win her back. This all consummate loyalty and resourcefulness is just what she needs now to win the seven kingdoms by war if need be.
  • Missandei — Dany’s right hand woman (trusted advisor and Handmaiden), once a slave who served as an interpreter to the masters of Astapor. Missandei was freed when Dany took the Unsullied army and used it to overthrow the slavers. Also, being a master of languages, she will be quite useful in helping them navigate through the seven kingdoms.


  • The Three Dragons — who seal the deal for #TeamDany, giving her the winning edge:
    • Drogon — named after Khal Drogo, black with red markings. Larger and more aggressive than his siblings.
    • Rhaegal — named after Rhaegar Targaryen, green with bronze markings.
    • Viserion — named after Viserys Targaryen, creamy white, with gold markings.
  • Ser Barristan Selmy — As mentioned above, one of the knights who have sworn to protect her with their own lives if necessary, whose watch was ended in Season 5. He gave up his life taking out several Sons of the Harpy with him on his way out the proverbial moon door.

Love the article? Have more angles or leadership lessons to add in? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.

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