Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers up to and including season 7 of Game of Thrones.
Last week we saw how a lack of independent advisors may have cost Tommen Baratheon his life. Let’s now examine how sound board composition and a clear Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) makes the beloved Daenerys Targaryen such a powerful and effective ruler.
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, First of Her Name,
Lady of Dragonstone, Rightful Heir to the Iron Throne,
Rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms,
Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Mhysa,
Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons
Daenerys Targaryen’s synopsis is too large to fully canvas here but judging from her titles you can see she has been a largely effective ruler. Dany has conquered most of Essos after her history with the Dothraki and emancipation of Slaver’s Bay (or should I say Bay of Dragons lest my tongue gets forcibly removed.) Daenerys has proved herself a powerful leader and many men and women have voluntarily chosen to follow her.
“For what it’s worth, I’ve been a cynic for as long as I can remember. Everyone’s always asking me to believe in things. Family, gods, kings, myself. It was often tempting until I saw where belief got people. So, I said, “No, thank you,” to belief. And yet, here I am. I believe in you. It’s embarrassing, really. I’d swear you my sword, but I don’t actually own a sword.”
– Tyrion to Daenerys in response to being named Hand of the Queen
Unlike my previous blogs, I’ll choose to draw attention to Dany’s successes rather than her failures and outline what has made her so effective. There are two reasons I’ve identified that have led to Dany’s success: her advisors and her MTP. I’ll start with the former. Although Daenerys doesn’t have a formal board she has always had many trusted advisors surrounding her; giving her counsel. Ser Jorah Mormont, Daario Naharis, Grey Worm, Ser Barristan Selmy, Missandei, Tyrion Lannister and Varys have all served as advisors and their diverse skills range from warfare to policy. A useful tool in determining what skills a board or Small Council has (and, by consequence, what skills are lacking) is a board skills matrix. Dany’s board skills matrix shows a wide range of expertise, perfect for counselling her on the complex task of conquering and ruling an empire. Compared to Robert Baratheon’s Small Council skills matrix, Dany’s shows a much better equipped team of advisors, it’s no wonder she is alive and Robert is long dead.
Daenerys Targaryen’s Risk Register
As I alluded to earlier, the second and arguably more important trait is her clear MTP (Massive Transformative Purpose). An MTP is not a mission, nor is it a purpose nor a vision – it is much more than that. An MTP is what causes people to follow, it inspires and guides and importantly needs to embody each of the three words of the acronym. Daenerys in fact has two MTPs, the first is to rid the known world of slavery. This is a massive task, it’s transformative in nature and it is certainly purposeful. It is this MTP that has caused so many people to follow her of their own volition and even more importantly, it guided all of her decision-making in Essos.
“Dovaogēdys! Āeksia ossēnātās, menti ossēnātās, qilōni pilos lue vale tolvie ossēnātās, yn riñe dōre ōdrikātās. Urnet luo buzdaro tolvio belma pryjātās!
(Unsullied! Slay the masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off of every slave you see!)”
– Daenerys Targaryen ordering the Unsullied in High Valyrian to sack Astapor and free the slaves.
Daenerys’s second MTP was revealed in a conversation with Tyrion, where Daenerys says,
“Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell, they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground.”
To which Tyrion replies,
“It’s a beautiful dream: stopping the wheel. You’re not the first person who’s ever dreamed it…”
Daenerys tellingly says,
“I’m not going to stop the wheel… I’m going to break the wheel!”
‘Breaking the wheel’ will be her prime directive and any action that does not go toward achieving this should be ignored. Daenerys has always acted in pursuit of her MTP, whether it be killing all the masters in Slaver’s Bay or allying with Yara Greyjoy to sail across the Narrow Sea, her focus has never wavered. At the end of season 7, the two risks that threaten Dany achieving her MTP are the Night’s King and Cersei Lannister so it’s a pretty safe bet that these will be her main focus in the final season.
At this stage, it may not be clear how an MTP applies to risk management but the answer is simple. In business, as in ruling, there are thousands of potential courses of action that can be followed or risks that can be taken. A succinct MTP will dictate which risks should be entertained; if the reward does not go directly to achieving the MTP, then perhaps that risk should be avoided. An MTP will allow you to filter potential courses of action and focus your efforts but it also sends a strong message to your followers (customers, employees, shareholders) about why they should choose you. In a world of information overload, a clear MTP gives you purpose and clarity and if your followers believe it, an MTP gives you power.
“Power is a curious thing… Three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies? … Power resides where men believe it resides; it’s a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
– Varys to Tyrion
Written By: Patrick Deruvo
- Feature Image provided by HBO