Want to read an SF mystery about murder, labour relations and self-driving cars? Now you can do it cheaper. Catch Bundoran Press’ sale, and get a trade paperback of Driving Ambition for less!
Picking up the Leadership in Game of Thrones thread again and moving on from last episode’s discussion of Daenarys Targaryen as an example of charismatic leadership, this time we’ll be looking at the concept of the transformational leader, as exemplified in Game of Thrones by Jon Snow.
On the surface of it, Jon Snow looks like another charismatic leader. As with Daenarys, he’s good-looking, knows his way around an epic speech, and people follow him even though he’s young, illegitimate, and has handed away any chance that he might inherit via a sidewise route to power (we’ll be talking about Ramsay Snow/Bolton and his alternative career path later in this series) by joining what is effectively a militant monastic order.
The key difference between him and Dany, though, is that he helps the people under his leadership to develop. Consider his relationship with Sam; while he teaches him swordsmanship, he also allows Sam to figure out what skills and abilities he can best contribute to the Nights’ Watch, and steers him towards becoming a scholar rather than just another man with a big stick on top of a wall. When Jon leaves the Nights’ Watch under the command of Dolorous Edd, you really do believe that, through Jon, Edd has developed to the point where this wouldn’t be a completely disastrous idea. Where people develop through Daenarys’s actions, it’s largely by accident or through the results of something she’s done rather than through her active sponsorship; she frees Grey Worm, but, if anyone helps him to develop his skills as a leader, it’s Missandei, not Daenarys. Which is the key point of a transformational, rather than a charismatic leader; that they help the people around them to “transform”.
They also come into their own as change managers, and this can certainly be seen to be true of Jon Snow. Almost every organisation he comes into contact with, he changes, and for the better; he’s got two groups of historic enemies working together, he’s developed an alliance with Daenarys. He’s been instrumental in getting the Northerners to accept his sister Sansa as their ruler. It’s no wonder Jeor Mormont marks him early on as a possible successor as the commander of the Nights’ Watch, above people with greater experience and seniority.
Given all this, a transformational leader might seem more than a little heroic. But that’s not necessarily the case. Transformational leaders, Jon to the contrary notwithstanding, aren’t inherently charismatic. Transformational leadership involves working with people to figure out what change is needed, and to deliver it, meaning that it involves giving way and compromising a lot more than traditional charismatic leadership does. Notice how Jon leads through building alliances and developing trust, not through railroading his way across two continents with a trio of magic beasts and an army of super-tough eunuchs. It also doesn’t make you stronger, or a better human, or smarter, than anyone else. Or to put it another way: Jon Snow’s transformational… but so, in her way, is Cersei Lannister.
Transformational leadership has become a very popular idea in management studies recently, and managers are being urged to be, or to become, transformational leaders (through reading a certain book or taking a certain course, naturally). In some ways, this is a good thing; the business world is currently in a period of upheaval, change is in the air, and the sort of leaders that are needed right now are often change managers. Problem is, this isn’t always true. In periods, and places, where change isn’t needed, your transformational leader becomes a micro-manager, constantly trying to fix what isn’t broken.
Transformational leaders are much nicer than charismatic ones from the perspective of the led– but, in an organisational setting, there’s nothing that makes transformational leadership inherently any better than any other sort of leadership. Context matters a lot to successful leadership, and transformational leaders are at their best when weathering change, not leading a charge or keeping an organisation going. In the end, given the amount of change going on in Westeros right now, Jon Snow is the man of the hour. And now, you know something.
Next time: Tyrion Lannister and transactional leadership.
Now, on the Mad Scientist Journal website, you can read my short story “Every Little Star” for free. It’s part of a series which is one part Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to one part Quatermass to one part 1950s lesbian pulp novels– featuring the adventures of a moonbase commander battling terrorism, glass ceilings and post-traumatic stress disorder, through the medium of virtual reality….
This one was an urban fantasy retelling of the story of Tiresias, the man who lived forever in the form of a cicada. It’s a good story for hot summers and hedonism, so amethyst made a certain amount of sense.
The sneak previews are now online for Interzone issue 278, which includes the artwork and an excerpt from my giant-insect story “Doomed Youth”. Click the link, enjoy, and buy the issue!
Driving Ambition! It’s a novel of murder, labour relations and self-driving cars!
If you want a dead tree version, the link here will take you to the publisher’s website.
The audiobook is available here.
And if you want to buy one direct from the author– just flag me down at any event I’m attending!
Missed my interview at the British Science Fiction Associaton’s October meeting? Want to learn more about Driving Ambition and what makes me write? View it here:
— Ann (@EggCupAnn) 24 October 2018
Or, if you just want the audio version:
If you would rather listen to last week’s fascinating @BSFA interview by @ed_fortune of Prof Fiona Moore, who talks about her first novel, ‘Driving Ambition’ by @ed_fortune, then you can listen to the high quality mp3 audio recording here: 🎧https://t.co/0s9SPtaP0e pic.twitter.com/CZ2XFVfdpj
— Chad Dixon (@lapswood8) 30 October 2018
UPDATE: Possibly more accessible video now available: