No One Knows How to Ride a Dragon – Until They Ride One

“Winter is Coming” – That simple phrase has become so familiar that it’s recognized around the world as a rallying cry for people to stand up and fight despite overwhelming odds. If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones (GoT) or haven’t finished the final season, fear not, there are no spoilers here.

I’m not the only one who thinks GoT has things to teach us, whether you’re a fan of the show or not. Columbia Business School professor and author @Bruce Craven extracts those lessons in his MBA course, Leadership Through Fiction, his consulting practice and his new book Win or Die – Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones (which I’d suggest everyone adds to their summer reading list).

As we get ready to do battle in the second half of our year, I thought I’d share lessons from the Seven Kingdoms that can help us tame dragons and find our place atop the Iron Throne when winter comes.

1. Network to Win – Tyrion Lannister was the epitome of a networker. As @Bruce Craven points out in his book, Tyrion used his emotional quotient to build alliances and networked tirelessly. In the digital economy, business is a team sport and you need the skills to rally allies to win the day.

2. Confront, Adapt, Change – Almost every character, at one time or another, came face to face with adversity or an enemy that threatened their very existence. The ones that succeeded (and lived) were able to adapt to their new circumstance and embrace change. Those who show flexibility and foresight to embrace what’s possible can take advantage of the opportunities just around the next corner.

3. Choose Strategically – At every turn, leaders in the Seven Kingdoms had to make tough choices to protect their people or advance their goals. Strategy drives choices that help us define our future and ultimately achieve success. Think about how near-term decisions align with your long-term goals and which actions bring you closer to victory.

4. Be Authentic – This is a core value for me: When your values and beliefs align with your actions, those around you can tell and are willing to share their trust and loyalty. Your customers can tell when you are genuine and care about the outcomes. I’ve never believed that showing you care is a weakness, it’s strength. When people know you genuinely care, they will rally behind you.

5. Act with Purpose – You can’t deny Daenerys had a singular focus and purpose. Her actions and decisions were focused on realizing her goal to “break the wheel” that oppressed the downtrodden. While we won’t talk about some of her later decisions and the driving forces that may have been at work, her singular purpose can’t be denied. Think of what you can accomplish with a clear vision and purpose.

6. Train to Win – Each of the Seven Kingdoms relentlessly trained their forces, strategists, and leaders to be the best and be ready for battle at a moment’s notice. Everyone was focused on winning and defeating the competition. The objective was always to achieve excellence and thus, win every battle. Serious organizations don't strive for mediocrity.

While we might not have to battle the White Walkers, we all must face our own “winter” as we fend off the competitors banging on the gates. What will you say when competition comes knocking? Let’s take a page from Game of Thrones and “hold the door” while channeling our inner Arya as we declare “NOT TODAY.”

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Rachel Mushahwar

About Rachel Mushahwar

Rachel Mushahwar, VP/GM of US Enterprise and Government, leads 9 different industry verticals in the US (Cloud, Retail, Transportation, Manufacturing, Energy, Financial Services, Government/SLED, Media/Entertainment, and Health Life Sciences) and is accountable for ~$4B in sales. Her focus is on enabling companies to realize the value of innovative offerings and delivering end-to-end innovative solutions to the industry that solve real-world business problems. She was recently named as “US Business Woman of the Year” by Insight Success and named by ChainStoreAge as one of the “Top Ten Women in Technology” in January 2017 and Women’s Wear Daily listed her among the “Top Industry Transformers” in December 2016. She has been on Wall Street Journal Live, and most recently NBC Press Here talking about how industries need to transform to compete.