Two Perspectives on Leadership

There are as many perspectives on Leadership as there are people. While watching Game of Thrones I could not help but notice the two contrasting approaches to leadership, as embodied by Ned Stark and Joffrey Baratheon.


Let us start with one extreme. Joffrey Baratheon, kinghood has been conferred upon him by the accident of birth. He knows he has power but does not understand power. He has not paid the price to be crowned, events beyond his control have led him to the throne. But all he sees is power, he does not understand its responsibilities, has no inherent trait of leading and guiding men, no impulse to fairness, no empathy to his subjects. Power he has and he exercises it. With all the smugness of one born to wealth and power, all pleasure and indulgence but no reflection, no self-questioning. His ego has deluded him to attribute his position to his own being.


In contrast, Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, knows he does not belong on the Iron Throne. He does not like, perhaps even despises power. Kinghood to him is a burden. He understands the machinations, the politics, the betrayals that underlie the crown. He lives by his values..brotherhood, family, his people and above all the honor of a warrior. He has strength, is battle-scarred. The burden of responsibility weighs upon his actions. Deliberate and methodical, his actions issue out of him as a craftsman chisels his jewels.

Two contrasting approaches out of the many that are possible to leadership. To be aware of what style one is employing, a recognition of our origins and our destinations and the legacy we wish to be known by are the starting point for grounded leadership.

Good leaders lead not just by the power that resides with their position. They lead with skills, with empathy, with humility. Purpose and principles motivate their actions. They do not look down upon their subjects however high the seat. They understand the ephemerality of power, the transient nature of events.

Through all this good leaders lead. And the bad ones gloat and relish their transient power enroute to their impending downfall.

Obama On Traits For a Leader Without Experience

SF 6th
Creative Commons License photo credit: january20th2009

“Sergey and Larry had no experience either of running a world-class Fortune 100 organization”, replies Obama.

Eric Schmidt, in his characteristic low brow style, earlier asks, “Why should people elect you when you clearly don’t have the experience”.

Obama follows up on that insight-clothed-as-humor with 3 characteristics that he thinks any leader should have, regardless of past experience

Traits for a leader without experience

1) Judgement

2) Vision

3) Character

4) Impatience with Status-quo

Watch the entire video here. The question comes around 54:00mins.

There are a ton of things I could highlight here. But shall leave it to one of the most charismatic people of our times to do the honors.

Note: I have paraphrased the question and answer, watch the video for the precise words and all that cannot be captured in words!