Game of Thrones is now informing my take on leadership. In the past, The Exorcist was a touchstone to which I always returned. Game of Thrones provides food for thought in every episode. All kinds of leaders are in action, some evil, some righteous. Different decisions are made and some thoughtful, some poor, some made with the help of advisors while others are made by the leader on her or his own. While it is a fictional fantasy and therefore full of extreme examples, the show does provide lessons to be learned.
In Season 5, Episode 5, “Kill the Boy,” bae Jon Snow has become the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jon consults the Maester because Jon trusts him as one of the few people of integrity to whom he can turn. The Maester is over 100 years old, blind, and frail. He is not vying for power and has been loyal to Jon. Jon appreciates his wisdom. The Maester knows a lot about the world. He’s an actual Targaryen but he renounced being part of the noble family to join the Night’s Watch. So Jon seeks his counsel on a decision he has to make. As a new leader, Jon has already been questioned about his strength in leadership. Even when he was still a steward, Jon was mistreated for several reasons. As a bastard, he is on the lower end of the social ladder. However, because he grew up in a noble family, he is perceived as a spoiled rich kid. Though the Maester points out that Jon did not need to consult him, he offers this observation, “You will find little joy in your command, but with luck, you’ll find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy…and let the man be born.” I liked these words so much I scribbled them on a notepad and I now carry with me to work.
Another part of the conversation between Jon and the Maester involves the response to a decision. Jon feels half the men will disagree. The Maester reminds him that half the men already do. In leadership and in life, there are always people who are difficult or divisive, those who breed drama or foster negativity. People will doubt me or want to get in the way of change; they woke up that way (and not looking like Beyoncé either!) I will have to deal with those situations in a way that will sit right with my values and with who I am.
Recently, I was reflecting with a friend who is new to educational leadership. I had previously shared with him my ideal of leadership with integrity. I know the reality is going to be difficult. I know I will struggle to be assertive and confrontational. I want to strive for my ideal. I want to lead in a way that when I get home to my family, I will feel good about a decision I made. Feeling good doesn’t mean jumping for joy. It doesn’t mean I won’t hurt feelings or compromise my “popularity.” I’m not leading to be liked. I’m not leading because it’s easy. I’m leading for a greater purpose and that is to serve young people. Whatever decision I make has to be one my students deserve.
Like Jon Snow, I’m entering a new phase in my life. I’m excited about being the Lord Commander and feel ready to kill the girl.