09 Aug 2016 20:11 IST

Jon Snow: the leader we love

Spoiler alert for those watching Game of Thrones for the first time

Game of Thrones, one of the most popular fantasy television series in history, offers many lessons to its viewers. Each character has a trait that we can draw lessons from — be it learning the advantages of networking well from Lord Varys or learning diplomacy from Petyr Baelish.

Among the hundreds of characters that make up the storyline is one of the favourites — Jon Snow. Jon’s story has been followed closely, right from Season One, and he is a character who has evolved over the six seasons. From “You know nothing, Jon Snow” to a seasoned leader who knows a lot more than most people down south in King’s Landing, we see the change.

Here are six lessons on leadership to learn from Jon Snow, whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned leader:

Walk the talk

Jon Snow walks the talk. As Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, it would have been easy for him to stay safe on the boat at Hardhome, keeping distance between himself and the raging war of the living and the White Walkers. Instead, he leads his men from the front and fights the enemy.

Despite being wounded, he does not leave the battlefield until he sees there is no hope for him and his army. He not only kills one of the White Walker generals but also tries to gather as many Wildlings and Black brothers to safety as he can.

It is absolutely essential for leaders to practise what they preach. If you want results from your team, you have to lead by example. Support your expectations from your team through your actions. It is the best way to inspire trust.

Be courageous

Jon doesn’t shy away from the battlefield or from facing the unknown. He proves his courage time and again, when he walks into the Wildling camp to negotiate with Mance Rayder and the Wildlings, to convince them to fight with the Watch against the Others, or at Hardhome, when he faces the army of the Night’s King. He is determined to fight till the end to save his people. His courage is what eventually makes people trust in him and follow him.

Unless you display courage as a leader, you cannot inspire faith and trust in your subordinates. It is one of the essentials of being a good leader. Display mettle in the face of adversity and have the courage to face challenges head on.

Be a visionary; seek strategic alliances

While practically everyone south of the Wall is against the idea of letting the Wildlings cross the Wall, Jon Snow sees the bigger picture and knows that Winter has come. He knows that the Night’s King is advancing and that his people do not have the means to stall their advance yet. The best solution, in this instance, is to stop the White Walkers from increasing their numbers by getting people from beyond the wall out of their reach. He also manages to put to rest the age-old fight between the Wildlings and the Night’s Watch, to an extent at least. He knows that the Watch doesn’t have enough men to stave off the Wildlings as well as the Others.

To be effective, a leader needs to be a visionary and foresee what is good for the team and the organisation, at large. It is also important for them to recognise the fact that they can’t do things on their own. They need to reach out for partnerships, as and when needed.

Be open to learning

One of the best traits of Jon Snow is that he is always grounded. Being selected as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch doesn’t stop him from seeking counsel from Maester Aemon. Jon knows he’s the youngest person to earn the title. He has no delusions about his knowledge, realising there are a lot of things he doesn’t know. He is open to learning from anyone who has good advice and useful knowledge for him, be it from Maester Aemon, Samwell Tarly, Ygritte, or Davos Seaworth.

Whether you are a first-time leader or an experienced one, always be wary of the ‘I-know-it-all’ syndrome. It will hamper your development as a person and a professional, making you and your learning stagnant.

Balance compassion and control

Throughout the first four-and-a-half seasons, Jon is known more for his compassion than control. While everyone else bullies Sam, Jon stands up for him. In the fight at Castle Black between the Watch and the Wildlings, he lets Ygritte go when he comes face-to-face with her. When Mance Rayder is put to death by fire, Jon shoots an arrow through his heart to save him from prolonged agony. At the same time, Jon displays control when he beheads Janos Slynt for disobeying him, or when he has to hang the men who conspired to kill him.

Both compassion and control are essential traits for a leader to possess. They have to find the right balance between the two and display the right trait at the right time to be effective.

Be yourself

While Jon displays all the traits of being a good leader, he doesn’t forget who he is. He internalises the diktat ‘Be Yourself’. In season one, Tyrion Lannister tells Jon, “Never forget who you are; wear it like an honour, and then it can never be used against you.” Intentionally or not, he follows this advice. There is no pretence about him. He recognises and accepts who he is, faults and all. He knows how to play to his strengths, and is aware of his shortcomings, working hard to overcome them and grow as an individual.

Good leadership entails that you don’t get swayed by what others want you to be. Genuine leaders don’t try to be someone else. They, instead, work towards making themselves better.