Leadership Lessons from House of the Dragon
Week 50 of Founding Typogram
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When I told my friend Michelle that I wanted to borrow her HBO account on a Sunday, she immediately knew which show I was watching and asked, “How did you like House of the Dragon?”
Like many others, I can’t resist but tune in to this prequel show of the infamous Game of Thrones. It turned out to be the kind of show that I watched while wondering what it would feel to be the maker because it is so beautifully done. The last time I felt this way was with Frozen and the ice castle building scene — I still got chills.
While I drooled over the aesthetically pleasing scene of a dragon breaking out from a fog, I also learned a few leadership lessons from the storylines.
Lesson 1: leader status is earned, not given.
When Rhaenyra was named the king’s heir, it was a surprise as she wasn’t expecting that. One may say she was gifted the position due to lucky circumstances — the other candidate, her uncle Daemon, had a big mouth and used it to talk hurtful things to the king and got himself exiled.
However, her latest crown princess status didn’t change her day-to-day job as cup-bearer in the small council. She was given a leadership role but has yet to earn the leader status.
Lesson 2: it takes more than one try to become a leader
In the next scene, we see Rhaenyra make a suggestion to the council on solving a military conflict. Some pirates were terrorizing people along the shoreline; the navy commander wanted to send troops to defeat these pirates, while the king wanted to avoid warfare. Rhaenyra, pouring drinks for them, heard the discussion and suggested that they should send dragon-riders like herself to the frontline to show the strength of their forces.
It is not a bad idea in my opinion — a strategy that is commonly used in modern geopolitics should have its merits. However, she was immediately dismissed and sent away to do other petty administration work (choosing a guard) instead. Her first try to show her leadership skill failed.
She wasn’t beaten down by her failed attempt. She stood tall and held her opinion when choosing the king’s guard, insisting on appointing someone with real combat experience even though he was not high-born like other candidates. Her second try to show leadership skills succeeded and earned some respect from her people.
It takes more than one try to become a true leader. Don’t be cynical when people can’t see your value as a leader on your first try, even if you are absolutely right and they are stupid not to listen to you. Continue to show up and lead; try after try.
Lesson 3: actions speak louder than words
She continued to put in efforts to show her leadership skills. When her uncle stole a dragon egg to provoke the king, she rode her dragon to the frontline of the confrontation where the two sides were on the brink of a would-be-bloody battle, talked her uncle into backing off, and retrieved the dragon egg without bloodshed.
When it comes to leading, while big corporate CEOs do sometimes lead in conference rooms, it is different for startups. It is not uncommon for startup founders to be in the frontline trench of product building and selling. Just like Rhaenyra putting her life on the line, literally standing in front of her guards and soldiers, a great deal of leadership comes from building respect and street credits in similar ways — fixing a nasty bug, solving problems for a customer, closing a sale contract. Actions speak louder than words.
Hear from You
If you are watching the show, what is your take or prediction on the storylines? If you are not watching this particular show, have you watched a show and learned some valuable lessons from it? Please share it with me!
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