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Do you think you know more than Jon Snow? If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, I’m sure you remember one of the most quoted phrases from the show: “You know nothing, Jon Snow”. In actuality, Jon Snow knows a lot – especially when it comes to success and leadership. In fact, there are a plethora of valuable leadership lessons we can learn from Jon Snow.
Game of Thrones was – and still is – one of the most massively successful shows of all time, and Jon Snow’s character is one of the most revered characters on the show. But what exactly made Jon Snow such a beloved leader? This fictional character won our hearts because he lead with his heart, and demonstrated what a true and noble leader looks like.
Jon Snow showed us that leadership is earned. A great leader paints a picture of hope while also having a clear mission that he believes in. Snow also had the best intentions for the people, and he was not power-hungry. People naturally wanted to follow Jon Snow, and the fact that power was not his goal made him an even more attractive leader. He was different than all the other power-hungry Kings and Queens vying for the throne who did not have good intentions for the people. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato said, “Those who seek power are not worthy of that power.” Perhaps this is one of the philosophies behind why the people deemed Jon Snow worthy of ruling.
But what about you? Why do you respect Jon Snow’s leadership style? It’s natural for fans to use popular fictional characters as inspiration for real-life decisions. But what makes a fictional character from TV or movies become an icon or an inspiration? Is it that they are relatable, and they express the human struggles we all face? Because they are aspirational – that they have the life we want to have? Is it that they are inspirational – they demonstrate the qualities we wish to have? I think it’s a combination of all three, and Jon Snow’s character captured all of these qualities.
It’s popular belief that one of the most powerful and defining traits of Jon Snow was his astounding natural leadership abilities. Game of Thrones fans first meet the character as a teenager; Snow is an orphaned Bastard who was taken under the wing of a powerful family. He seemed to have very little power or status. He is sent to The Wall, a place for outcasts, misfits, and nobodies to serve, keeping watch for everyone else’s benefit. Over the seasons of the hit series, we watched Jon Snow evolve from a powerless outcast to a commanding leader.
Against all odds, he was able to gather people to support his cause, draw power away from more established leaders, and inspire people to follow him and risk their lives for him. Jon Snow was a leader for the right reasons. He lead with his heart and had a clear mission. His core values of loyalty, honesty, courage, compassion, resilience, forgiveness, humility, and patience combined to make him the type of leader that we can all aspire to be.
So what exactly are Jon Snow’s rules for success and leadership? I’m going to tell you about the 9 qualities that made Jon Snow a great leader, so that you can follow his example:
1. Lead With Your Heart and Do Not Judge
Where do you lead from – your head, or your heart? Perhaps you think of a leader as being a calculating mastermind, weighing every decision with a purely rational analysis. But you would be wrong. To lead with your full potential, you need to lead with your heart.
What does it mean to lead with your heart? It means that you are able to put aside some of your judgements and snap decisions, and to look at people with an open heart and a generous spirit. It means that you see the potential in people. This is what Jon Snow did: he didn’t judge his friends, comrades, or allies by their claims and resumes alone. He saw them not just for who they are, but also for who they could be.It’s your job as a leader to believe in people and help them realize their potential. It’s your job to see beyond appearances, and see their promise. Click To Tweet
We can’t underestimate this ability: when you really believe in your team and show them you do, it will increase their belief in themselves. This in turn will cultivate the growth of their skills and increase their output. Being a stern leader or a disciplinarian alone won’t get you these results. You have to see the potential of each team member.
Lead With Your Heart - Infographic: pic.twitter.com/SYpaCTCHTI Click To Tweet
As a leader, it is your job to identify the seeds of success in those under you, and to help them cultivate their abilities and grow towards their maximum potential. There are team members who might be operating at a B level who you can bring up to an A level by motivating them, coaching them, training them, and believing in them.Your belief in the abilities of those you are leading has a direct influence on their belief in themselves. And in order to operate at their full potential, they must believe in themselves. Click To Tweet
When you lead with your heart and believe in your employees, you will inspire them at an emotional level. This will increase team bonding, morale and loyalty. When they know you believe in them, they will be grateful and want to do their best work for you.
As their leader, your support, your positive feedback, and your belief in their abilities can change their self-concept and self-esteem. They will then produce results that match this higher self-concept. Open your heart and mind to what your team members might be capable of, and watch as they grow to impress and surprise not only you, but also themselves.
2. Your Title Doesn’t Make You a Leader
In Game of Thrones, the people believed in Jon Snow and followed him even though he didn’t have any sort of official title or claim to power. Jon Snow didn’t have a royal title or royal ties, but he was extremely passionate and sincere. He was driven by a mission, and people believed in his cause. A good leader like Jon Snow has a great mission that they believe in, and people who naturally want to follow them.
I believe that a great leader leads without a title. Having the title of “President” or “CEO” does not automatically make you a good leader, and you can actually be a great leader without any sort of official title.
If you do have a commanding title, don’t expect it to hold much weight. Sure, you might have an authoritative title, but if nobody follows you and nobody respects you, you aren’t a good leader. That’s why your title doesn’t really matter that much.
3. Accept That You Don’t Know Everything
In business, you can’t do it all yourself. You can’t know everything – that’s what your team is for. In order to grow and be successful, you need to hire talented people and delegate. As a leader, it’s crucial to be able to spot great talent, and empower those talented individuals on your team to make decisions, contribute solutions and execute the vision.
You don’t want to be the most knowledgeable or the most skilled person on your team.What you want is for different people on your team to possess different skill sets so that your team’s combined knowledge becomes a force to be reckoned with. Click To Tweet
A great leader finds team members who know what they don’t know, and they’ll fill knowledge gaps this way. You don’t have to be an expert at everything – that’s why you hire experts in various fields.
Jon Snow didn’t really “know nothing”. He knew a lot, but he was also humble enough to accept that he didn’t know everything. He was aware of what he didn’t know and who he needed to consult with or delegate to.
A humble leader like Jon Snow will accept that they don’t know everything, and also accept that they will make mistakes. Jon Snow made lots of mistakes, but he learned from his failures, and he grew from those mistakes.
As a leader, accepting that you don’t know everything aligns with an understanding that different people on your team might have different perspectives on how to solve a problem. Someone on your team might have a completely different perspective than you on an issue, but your job is to keep an open mind that they might be right, and you might be wrong.
When Jon Snow says, “We look up at the same stars and see such different things” he demonstrates his deep understanding of how different people have different perspectives.
4. Don’t Be a Lone Wolf: Form Strategic Alliances
Instead of being a lone wolf, form intelligent alliances and unite your allies towards a common goal.One of the rules of success and leadership is that you not only have to accept that you don’t know everything, you also have to accept that you can’t do everything. Click To Tweet
That’s right: you simply can’t do everything by yourself. Great leaders collaborate with others and share knowledge, resources and strategies because great leaders understand that two heads are better than one, three heads are better than two, and so on and so forth. As Jon Snow would say, “I need you with me if we’re going to beat them.”
A lone wolf can still be successful, but a lone wolf will have a much more challenging journey towards success. For example, a lone wolf often focuses too much on their competition. They’re too narrow-minded. The lone wolf often thinks about how to beat competitors, instead of thinking about collaborating with their competitors.
If all you focus on is how to beat the competition, you won’t be a good leader.Instead of thinking about how to crush your competitors, think about how you can benefit from working with them. Click To Tweet
You could cross-promote, share customer bases, share resources, and create strategic alliances.
5. Lead With Integrity: Have Strong Ethics and Morals
Jon Snow is a leader who has a strong moral compass, plenty of empathy and good sense of ethics. One of Jon Snow’s famous quotes is, “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything.” I love this quote because I think staying true to your word is incredibly important in business and in leadership.
I believe that integrity is very simple: You do what you say you’re going to do. You follow through. If for some reason you can’t do what you said you were going to do, at least have the decency to communicate this from an honest and moral position.If you lead with integrity and keep your promises, you’ll protect the reputation of your business. Click To Tweet
People often make false promises in the business world to get ahead. When you do that, your customers and team members lose faith and lose morale. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. It’s better to underpromise and over-deliver.
6. Lead By Example
A successful leader knows they cannot just talk the talk – they have to walk the walk. If you have a clear mission and clear core values for your brand, you must demonstrate those core values at all times. Lead by example by living and breathing those core values.
Jon snow put himself out there, fought for what be believed in, walked the walk, and showed those that followed him that he was willing to fight for his mission because he truly believed in it. He also showed his followers that he was willing to make great sacrifices for his mission, which is why his people in turn sacrificed as well.
When you’re a leader, you can show courage by stepping out of your office, getting out from behind your desk, and leading by example. You can’t always sit at your desk and delegate. Sometimes you have to get up from your desk and show them how it’s done.
7. Be Driven By Your Mission, Not By Your Ego
A great leader is mission-driven, not ego-driven. That’s why having a mission statement is so important. Having a clear mission gives your people something to get behind. Your mission statement is how you communicate to your team – and to the world – what your company is about. Your mission isn’t about making money, it’s about making a difference.
Businesses will stay small if the business owner thinks too small, and is only driven by their own ego or only driven by money. Ego-driven leaders won’t be successful in motivating anyone, and they won’t attract top-tier talent either.People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and be driven by an inspiring mission or purpose. Click To Tweet
Do you think you are going to attract the right people with the right intentions if you have no mission to attract them with, other than making money or gaining power?
Remember that Jon Snow never wanted power for the sake of power, which made him a better leader because he’s not ego-driven or power hungry – he just wanted to lead for his cause.
8. Know What Battles Aren’t Worth Fighting
Perhaps you remember when Jon Snow said to Ygritte, “Six times you’ve invaded, and six times you’ve failed. The seventh will be the same.” Snow then says, “You don’t have the discipline. You don’t have the training. Your army is no army. You don’t know how to fight together.”
What is the lesson here? It’s good to believe in your vision, but it’s also good to know when your strategy isn’t working. This way, you can either decide that it’s a battle not worth fighting, or you can decide to change your strategy and change your approach. You have to be flexible enough to pivot and come up with a new approach, or decide not to fight a battle you know you’ll lose.
Successful leaders pick their battles and know which battles aren’t worth fighting. They also know when to let go of a strategy that won’t get them there.
Keep your goal – your mission – as your North Star, but be willing to give up on fighting certain battles that aren’t worthwhile. Imagine you are in a ship heading towards your North Star. What currents and storms do you really need to fight to get there? Can you recognize when it is wiser to avoid the storm, change course and find another route that will get you to your destination? Can you recognize when it’s best to abandon a sinking ship?
9. Fearlessly Make Tough Decisions
As a leader your team counts on you to make tough decisions during tough times. These decisions aren’t always going to be pleasant or easy to make. Something like the decision to end a partnership or letting go of an employee won’t be easy, but if it’s what’s best for the business, perhaps it must be done.
A great leader must get comfortable being uncomfortable. If you want to be liked by everyone and you don’t want to rock the boat, you won’t be a good leader.
In Game of Thrones, Jon Snow stands by his decisions, even when his advisors are against his decision. His character says things like, “It is my decision, and my decision is final!” A famous quote from Jon Snow about making tough decisions is, “Sometimes there is no happy choice, only one less grievous than the others.”
If you want to make the best decisions for your company, know that it might not always be the popular decision. Your leadership skills really get tested when it’s time to make an unpopular decision or cause disruption, because it’s not easy to do.
Not everyone has it in them to make these uncomfortable decisions, and that’s why not everyone has it in them to be a leader.
Jon Snow was a natural leader because people naturally wanted to follow him. But why? We know that he was an attractive leader because he believed in his mission and was not seeking power. He was authentic and genuine, not power-hungry or ego-driven.
Jon Snow lead with his heart and had a clear mission that reflected his good intentions. His core values of loyalty, honesty, courage, compassion, resilience, forgiveness, humility, and patience combined to make him the type of leader that we can all aspire to be. Below are 9 lessons of leadership and success that we can learn from Jon Snow:
- Lead With Your Heart and Do Not Judge
- Your Title Does Not Make You a Leader
- Accept That You Don’t Know Everything
- Form Strategic Alliances – Don’t Be a Lone Wolf
- Lead With Integrity: Have Strong Morals and Ethics
- Lead By Example
- Be Mission-Driven, Not Ego-Driven
- Know When a Battle is Not Worth Fighting
- Make Tough Decisions