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When you play The Game of Thrones, you play to win. For those who read the books or watch the show, you understand the ever-expanding list of contenders for the throne.

But in a cut throat, back stabbing environment where your best friend can become your worst enemy, who has the ideal blend of wit, courage, strength and power to rule from the Iron Throne?

Let’s dissect the mistakes, advantages and leadership skills exhibited by some of the top contenders for the Iron Throne.

**Spoiler Alert** This post covers events through Season 2 of “ Game of Thrones.”

6. Stannis Baratheon

To say Stannis Baratheon “rules with an iron fist” is an understatement. His sense of justice is unbearable, but his claim to the throne is undeniable as the eldest brother of the dead king. Unfortunately, Stannis’ luck is not as legendary as his love for law enforcement. When he finally has the troops and the boats to attack Kings Landing, Tyrion’s chain and wildfire destroy any hope of a direct attack against the Lannisters from Stannis Baratheon, the rightful king of the seven kingdoms.

Another great weakness of Stannis is his stubborn support of the red woman, Melisandre. Yeah, her super creepy shadow baby killed Renly, but her prodding of Stannis to attack King’s Landing forced him to ignore the wisdom of Davos, a trusted advisor. Not only this, but her religion scares away many who would have joined Stannis’ cause against the hated Lannister family.

Lesson: While it is important to follow the rules, a strong leader must also know the right time to break them. Business leaders must be flexible and opportunistic – the opposite of the single-minded and stubborn Stannis Baratheon.

5. Cersei Lannister

Cersei Lannister wants to be the puppeteer behind the Iron Throne, plotting through the death of King Robert to become the mastermind behind the curtain. She then attempts to rule through her son Joffrey, whom she naively believes to be easily directed. However, Joffrey proves to be unforeseeable stubborn, leaving Cersei essentially powerless.

As the functioning second-in-command, Cersei had the opportunity to wrestle power from her son, but instead yields to his ruthless actions. Cersei, in her conventional Lannister mindset, is like the senior manager that is ambitious and driven but lacks the personality to engage and empathize with others. Her inferiors are driven by fear rather than respect.

Lesson: Cersei has the ambition required in a recipe for a successful, modern business leader but lacks the skillset and assertiveness to be make the leap to real-world success – she could never be more than second-in-command.

4. Daenerys Targaryen

She has dragons. How has she not taken over the world? Unfortunately Daenerys has a few problems with her “children,” and they are the cause of most of her setbacks. While her Dothraki love her, she doesn’t find similar adoration when she ventures outside of the Dothraki Sea.

Finally, this lady has gone halfway around the realm in the wrong direction, leaving most viewers ready to scream, “Excuse me, miss, the Iron Throne is that way!” Good luck becoming the Queen of the realm when you can’t even keep track of your only real asset. Sorry Dany, but you’re gonna have to take control of your dragons before you are a contender for the Iron Throne.

Lesson: As leaders, we need to learn how to keep our goals in mind, prevent distractions, and never forget to use what we’ve got. When you have dragons in the cabinet, capitalize. Lay out your goals, where you want to be, and how you want to get there. Planning for the future is one of the most important keys to success in the business world.

3. Ned Stark

Ah, Ned – the Al Gore of the Seven Kingdoms. While most fans would identify Boromir Ned as “the guy from Lord of the Rings,” or “courageous,” his honorable personality does not compensate for his shortcomings.

As the Hand of the King, Ned possesses the rare ability to see beyond the day-to-day and anticipate long-term consequences. However, his far-sightedness has the unfortunate consequence of clouding his current surroundings. Ned’s preoccupation with “winter is coming” becomes his downfall. It causes him to disregard all animosity from Cersei and the brewing fall of King Robert, eventually resulting in his own beheading.

Lesson: While Ned possesses the vision and mindset of a successful leader, his preoccupation with the grand scheme prevents him from tackling the immediate, day-to-day issues that crumble an enterprise.

2. Robb Stark

Like his father, Robb’s downside is his blind trust in those around him. Fortunately, his other characteristics and his awesome nickname are able to pull him up to number two on this list. With his father’s sense of honor and the strong personality necessary to band the Northern Lords behind him, Robb (The Young Wolf) is able to lead his men to many victories in The Game of Thrones.

Unfortunately, what Robb wins in the South, he eventually loses in the North. Misguided trust in Theon alerts the Greyjoy family to the weakness in Winterfell, and his teenage hormones deny him the use of the Frey’s bridge over the Trident. Along with this, his own mother releases the only bargaining tool that Robb had against the Lannisters – Jaime. In the end, it is the actions of the people he trusts that hold Robb back from becoming the winner of the Game of Thrones.

Lesson: As a leader, Robb has the skills to do great things and unite the North, but he trusts the wrong people. With his misplaced trust, Robb fails every time. The best leaders still need strong, supporting colleagues… even if that requires first getting rid of weak, conniving ones. In the modern world, even the smartest businessmen need smart, and dedicated colleagues to help them excel. For example, while there is no question that Steve Jobs was a revolutionary figure in the tech world, without Steve Wozniak, his initial partner and co-founder, Apple may never have gotten off the ground in the first place.

1. Tyrion Lannister

Though he lacks Jaime’s combat skills and Cersei’s unceasing Lannister-bred ambition, Tyrion is the shrewd, educated, and calculated Lannister best fit to sit upon the Iron Throne. His stature is the most apparent trait that distinguishes him from his siblings. The trials that he has endured from society has given him the worldview that sets his character apart from those of Cersei and Jaime. It is the humility that arises from his dwarfism that has been the biggest blessing and curse. While his dwarfism earned him little respect from Lord Tywin, it has crafted a broader mindset free from the inhibiting pride of Jaime and Cersei.

Tyrion is personable and knowledgeable, setting him ahead of those that desperately seek power. His ability to win the support of the mountain clansmen to not only bolster Lannister line but also save his life exemplifies Tyrion’s innate ability to charm both friends and enemies and win their support. On the strategic end, Tyrion’s revolutionary thinking found an overlooked use of wildfire that set aflame Stannis’ hopes of capturing King’s Landing.

A king at heart – if only Tyrion had been born with a body to match his mind.

Lesson: As a business leader, Tyrion has the potential to unite a team around a single goal and create solutions from a fresh perspective, as demonstrated by the wildfire performance. The best leaders are those that can gain support from their “troops” at an intrinsic level. His creativity and wit give rise to original solutions that have the ability to change the face of a business.

James Lavery and Andrew Tran are content development specialists at OpenSesame, a leading eLearning marketplace.

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