Some Spoilers Ahead
Well, talk about making an entrance…or exit. The latest episode of Game of Thrones had yet another epic Daenerys Targaryen moment. I won’t get into too many details with respect to spoilers but I would imagine this swings the pendulum back in the mother of dragon’s favor.
Dani has been a favorite of mine from the beginning of the series and after last night’s episode, one can make the case that she has an effective style of leadership. In fact, we as professionals or student leaders can learn a thing or two. Welcome to the House Targaryen School of Leadership. Please leave your dragons and direwolves in the other room.
A quick personal side note: I promise I don’t spend every Sunday night figuring out how each Game of Thrones episode can connect to Higher Ed and Student Affairs. It just…comes to me…by way of the old gods and the new.
1) Have patience, timing is everything: Daenerys’ rise to power was intentional. A good leader is one that makes well informed, strategic decisions. Almost every one of Dani’s decisions had thought put into it; whether it was her people (more on that later) or her own. If Daenerys was in higher education/student affairs she would also be able to effectively play “the game” in terms of politics. She has consistently been an expert at figuring out other people’s strengths and weaknesses and using that to compliment her own plan. And for the most part, Dani has also been able to pick and choose her battles wisely- another important part of being a strong leader.
2) Believe in yourself and your abilities: While Daenerys has a storied family; her path was not quite as glorious. As we remember, House Targaryen ruled over Westeros for quite some time until Robert Baratheon moved in. That left Daenerys and her brother Viserys exiled, and Dani was at the mercy of her older brother for quite some time. Most higher education professionals come from many different backgrounds and have many different skill sets. That is what makes our field so unique. As Daenerys began to learn the truth (hello mother of dragons) and saw in herself what others believed, she began to grow into the leader we see today. You cannot be a leader and expect people to believe in your vision without first recognizing your own abilities and self-worth.
3) Surround yourself with trustworthy and competent individuals: I truly believe that one of the biggest reasons why Dani has been successful is that she has a close group of advisors of whom she can depend on. For the past few seasons she has surrounded herself with folks like Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm and Missandaei who all possess specific skills. They all offer opinions that sometimes differ from her own, which often leads Dani to make the right moves. I also believe Daenerys has the ability to recognize other leaders and in doing so earns trust and loyalty. For us in the real world, that same strategy can make or break our success in the long term. Many professionals believe going at it alone is the key to being successful. Unfortunately, at some point you may need an ally or two. Having strong partnerships, building bridges and creating advocates will not only show that you know how to lead but also value others.
4) Take risks and believe in change: Out of all the possible challengers to the iron throne that Game of Thrones has introduced us to, it is fair to say that the breaker of chains has also taken the most risks. Let’s review: Daenerys stepped into a fire (multiple times), raised dragons (and flew on one), has conquered multiple cities (including setting the Dothraki leadership on fire), and has stood up to multiple individuals that could possibly have ended her. And, if you have relentlessly followed Game of Thrones from the beginning, Daenerys has come out on top in almost every possible situation. Obviously we all don’t have armies that serve at our pleasure to assist us as we go through our daily routines, but successful leaders are those that step out of comfort zones and go against the norm. I brand myself as a change agent and that has been one of the strongest pillars to my leadership profile. It is important to note that taking risks should come with a plan. Unless you are the unburnt, you may not want to leap into the proverbial fire without a well thought out risk management plan.
5) Perception is everything– Sometimes as leaders we find ourselves in the limelight. Our body language, how we speak and how we engage can set the tone for how we are perceived. That old cliché about first impressions does come into play and second chances aren’t always a given. Even when Daenerys is in a tough spot (her season 6 storyline for instance), she still carries herself as Queen. I like to think of her as having a big heart but carrying a large stick. Dani has successfully convinced armies to believe in her vision and quite often it is because of her actions. She cares, yet is stern. And as I touched upon earlier, even if she believes her opinion or decision is right she still allows her team to give input. Think about your daily tasks, and what you need to do in your respective positions to lead and be successful. Think about how much more difficult that would be if your colleagues and even your students thought you were unfit. Always put your best forward.
6) Be willing to learn- As leaders we make mistakes- it’s the simple truth. What separates the good leaders from the bad ones is what we take from those mistakes. Do we grow? Do we want to assess why the mistake was made? As we have watched Dani grow into a Queen, she has made her fair share of initial mistakes (think chaining her dragons or killing previous slave Mossador as a show of strength in season 5). She also chose to do away with a very important part of Slaver’s Bay culture- the fighting pits. All of these decisions lead to altercations that made Dani’s ability to rule more complicated. In the end, she has managed through these situations because of her ability to take a step back, observe the situation, listen to her colleagues for advice and learn.
Another quick personal side note: How cool would it be for dragon to fly down and scoop you up from a meeting you don’t want to be in? Now that’s all you will think about next time you are stuck. You’re welcome.
Till the next time,
Scott. Scott. Scott.
Scott Siegel-Ortiz is a well-rounded higher education professional with over 8 years of dedication to the development and success of students. His passion for making an impact knows no boundaries and is constantly striving to reach the next level while encouraging his students to do the same.
Scott also loves long walks down the aisles of Target and likes to post lots of pics of his cats on social media.