Last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones featured many moments of quiet reflection. Characters looked back at their success and failures on and off the battlefield.
The world of Game of Thrones is a brutal one — there are political pitfalls around every corner, and a single mistake can easily cost you your life. To survive, the characters must inspire others with their leadership, and foster leadership in others.
As we move into next week’s episode — one that is rumored to feature the longest battle sequence ever committed to film — let’s take a look at how each character approaches leadership and coaching.
We are going to look at these leaders’ coaching skills using the AIIR Coaching Mindset Index® framework, which breaks down the essential components of coaching into three foundational pillars: (1) Sharing Feedback, (2) Setting Goals, and (3) Finding Solutions.
Leaders can approach any of these categories with either a Push or Pull coaching strategy:
The most versatile coaches are able to leverage a combination of both strategies, moving between push and pull in response to the coachee’s needs. Here are the coaching strategies leaders use:
As seen in the model above, every leader gravitates toward a natural style of coaching, defined by their unique blend of preferred strategies. We’ve identified four coaching styles: Independent (low push/low pull), Supportive (high push/low pull), Directive (low pull/high push), and Engaged (high push/high pull).
While she sometimes takes extreme action, Daenerys is a firm but fair ruler to her people. From the hoard of Dothraki to the Unsullied and other slaves she freed in Slaver’s Bay, she has inspired many to join her cause. We see other characters remark that she has a good heart and it is clear that she takes a compassionate approach (just as long as you don’t cross her or stand in her way). She also isn’t shy about sharing her experiences or pushing for performance. This makes Daenerys the type of high push/high pull Engaged coach that gets results.
Cersei isn’t one to mince words and she’s never demonstrated much patience for pull strategies. She’s going to tell you what she believes and push for performance no matter what. Like her father, Tywin, Cersei doesn’t shy away from direct feedback — even if it might be painful for her coachees, namely Jaime and Sansa, to hear. We do occasionally see her use a more supportive style with her children, but everyone else gets Cersei’s high push/low pull Directive style.
Cersei clearly had a strong influence on Sansa during her formative years. While Sansa does lead with more compassion, she’s not afraid to be perfectly candid. We see her frequently peer-coaching Jon using a direct approach. She has learned from her experiences and is not going to let those lessons go to waste. She also exercises great ambition, seeking to regain Winterfell and determined to maintain control of the North. Like her own coach, Cersei, Sansa is high push/low pull.
Lord Varys plays a long game in his coaching engagements. As he has stated many times, Varys seeks to serve the Realm, protecting the common people. Varys leads with curiosity, listening to the many songs of his little birds. He takes a diplomatic approach, serving first King Robert and then King Joffrey, all while developing his true coachee, Queen Daenerys. While his influence on her has been indirect, they share compassion for the common people. Varys is a low push/high pull leader that develops talent over time.
Sam has been coaching Jon since the two met in Season 1. He’s a compassionate person that values knowledge and strongly encourages development. Remember that it was Sam who nominated Jon for Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch — a rare example of pushing him to perform when Jon didn’t feel ready or worthy. Sam knows potential when he sees it and he wants others to see it too. This makes him a gentle, low push/high pull coach.
Tyrion is a committed coach and has been since he first arrived at King’s Landing to serve as Hand to King Joffrey. During that time, he encouraged the king to fight alongside his people and think about their experiences. While that coaching engagement ended badly, his most recent coachee, Daenerys, has certainly soared to new heights. By encouraging her to check her impulses and encouraging her compassion for the common people, Tyrion demonstrates his high push/high pull coaching style.
Jon Snow is a rare leader that has taken up the mantle of responsibility because it was thrust upon him. Like Daenerys, Jon has inspired many to follow him. Unlike Daenerys, he doesn’t seek to rule them or control them. He simply seeks to rally and protect them. Jon’s had a few unsuccessful coaching engagements (that one with Olly didn’t end well…), but by allowing for autonomy he has brought almost everyone to fight for the ultimate cause. Jon is the only Independent leader on our list, favoring a low push/low pull approach.
These leaders aren’t around anymore, but it’s still fun to think about their styles. Even if those styles eventually got them killed.
Ned led by example, holding himself to a code of honor while encouraging others to do the same. Now his head is independent too.
No one was better at indirectly guiding a coachee than Queen Margaery. If only she’d pulled out of the Great Sept a little sooner.
Tywin wasn’t concerned with the opinions of the sheep and didn’t think you should be either. That crossbow was also quite directive.
Tommen had a gentle heart that matched his gentle coaching but after he stepped out of that window, his style just didn’t land.
The humble High Sparrow lived in service of the gods and brought many to his cause. It’s a real shame that didn’t work out better for him.
Rob openly coached his men, sharing experiences and exercising flexibility in the name of the cause. Unfortunately, it was a broken engagement that eventually caught up with him.
Shireen coached Ser Davos and Gilly, encouraging them both to learn to read. Perhaps she was a bit too supportive when it came to her own father…
Sometimes brute force isn’t the best way to inspire loyalty. It might just get you choked up!
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