The charismatic leader: Daenarys Targaryen

We’ll begin our series on Leadership in Game of Thrones with a look at behavioural theories of leadership. ThesGame of Thrones Daenerys Wallpaper - WallpaperSafarie are the sorts of theories that you tend to find, subtextually or textually, running through airport books that tell you how to Find Your Own Leadership Potential or the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or whatever.

Behavioural theories like to break leaders down into types. One of the most commonly encountered typologies divides leaders, or leadership behaviour, into Charismatic, Transactional and Transformational leaders.

We’ll talk about the other two later, but to start with, I’d like to consider Daenarys Targaryen as an example of the charismatic leader.

Charismatic leadership is a perhaps surprisingly old concept, initially developed by pioneering organisational sociologist Max Weber in the 1920s. His idea was that charismatic leadership was when authority derived from the charisma of the leader, as opposed to through the law or through tradition.

This fits Daenarys perfectly: her claim to governance of anything, let alone Westeros, completely flies in the face of tradition (pretty much every society she’s in contact with accepting female leaders only under extremely unusual circumstances), and is of dubious legality (she’s admittedly the sole surviving member of the former ruling house of Westeros, in a society that values primogeniture– but, like the medieval societies it’s based on, it doesn’t value it to the point of being stupid, which is why most of Westerosi society clearly supports the rule of Robert Baratheon, who’s older, male, and has the support of the feudal lords, instead of a thirteen-year-old girl who’s never set foot in the country).

Much of what she subsequently builds her power base on is, initially, derived from personal charisma. The fact that she’s able to build a bond with the man she’s been married to for political reasons and get him on side for a counter-coup; her ability to then get enough of his followers to support her independently, against all of their, yes, laws and traditions, when he dies (stunts involving dragons and being immune to fire help, but they’re not everything).

The concept was further developed in the 1970s by Robert J. House, who focused on charismatic leadership as a psychological profile, and portrayed charismatic leaders as ones who build up excitement in their followers and empower them to seek to do better things for the organisation, as can be seen when Daenarys conquers Meereen with the army of the Unsullied. Charismatic leaders also build up bonds with their followers, and you can see that in Daenarys’ relationships with Grey Worm, Missandei, Tyrion and Jorah Mormont. Her charisma even bleeds out into the audience: just google her name, or check out the amount of Targaryen tat on Etsy, Ebay and the like, for evidence

A lot of leadership books like the idea of charismatic leaders, so you see a lot of the abovementioned airport books urging you to develop your own charisma and become a charismatic leader. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, though. As another organisation studies scholar, Dennis Tourish, pointed out, bad leaders have the same traits as good ones, and you only have to look at Daenarys’ trajectory to see the bad aspects as well: bullying, monomania, a tendency to abuse the trust and respect her followers have in her (honestly, Mormont, leave her, she’s not worth it). Daenarys also has elements of the “crisis leader” as well, in that she clearly has issues coping with the day-to-day business of ruling rather than the ones that involve making proclamations. Which probably won’t help should she find herself actually having to be Queen of Westeros.

So on the one hand, it’s a good thing for her that she’s surrounded herself with other leaders with compatible skill sets and social capital, like Tyrion and Jon Snow. On the other… she’d better learn how to negotiate and compromise as well as charm, because charisma, while it may be sexy, isn’t everything in a good leader.

 

Driving Ambition: Where To Get It

Driving Ambition! It’s a novel of murder, labour relations and self-driving cars!

If you want a dead tree version, email me— I’m currently selling them for £7 plus postage and packing.

If you want a version in pixels, click here for Kindle.

The audiobook is available here.

For content previews, you can of course read a sample on Amazon, and you can also see me reading Chapter One here.

And if you want to buy one direct from the author– just flag me down at any event I’m attending!

Driving Ambition on Kobo and Kindle

Driving Ambition is now available to download for the Kobo and the Kindle– arguably a good way to read a book about virtual systems, artificial intelligences, and beings who exist only online.

Print copies will be available later, and I’ll post ordering links when that happens.

Here’s the link for the Kobo version, and here’s the link for the Kindle version.

Driving Ambition: Chapter One

Just thought I’d mention that my first novel, Driving Ambition, a tale of murder, labour relations, and self-driving cars, has had its launch event at Can-Con.

Here is a video of me reading the first chapter…

Britons: I’ll be interviewed live at the BSFA meeting on 24 October, and will bring copies for sale. Canadians: There are copies available at Can-Con. Everyone: I’ll be posting an ordering link as soon as I have one.

Another note on fiction

In my final undergraduate year, I did an ethnographic study of a drag cabaret which ran out of a bar in the Gay Village near the university. I’ll blog about it more later, but at the moment all I want to say is that I was unusually lucky and was able to get two actual, grown-up, academic publications out of it.

Although the bar was pretty well-known, I anonymised it in the study by calling it The Fifty-Four.

Sometime later, I started seriously writing fiction. One of the types of fiction I write is a series of intermittent dark fantasy stories set in and around a Gay Village which is essentially a fictionalised version of the abovementioned Gay Village near the university.

In the first published story, “The Kindly Race,” I needed a name for a village bar that had a drag cabaret.

I called it The Fifty-Four.

Let’s just say it was my way of contributing to the debate of whether or not ethnography is just another kind of storytelling.

Driving Ambition cover reveal

If you like this blog, you’re going to love this novel:

Driving-Ambition-FrontCover

“In the not-too-distant future, intelligent Things are recognized as sentient beings–but do they have the same rights as humans? And what about the free-floating Intelligents deep within the Internet. Thompson Jennings is a man with unique problems and unique abilities–he can interface between the human and machine worlds, acting as a go-between in labour negotiations and other disputes. But when one his clients, a sentient taxicab, is murdered, his problems multiply and his abilities are stretched to the limit.”

The publisher is Bundoran Press, there will be a launch event at CanCon next month, and others in Toronto and London later on. I’ll post pre-order links when I have them.

Skulls #1: “Stone Roach”/”Delays on the South Central Line”, Asimov magazine, 2011

Every time I sell a work of fiction, I buy a crystal skull. This is the one that started it.

I’d started sending out flash fiction and poetry, nervously. I’d promised myself that I’d buy something nice the first time I sold something.

I got a rejection slip from Asimov. They’re a big market, hard to crack, especially for a beginning writer. I wasn’t surprised.

Shortly afterwards, I got an e-mail from Asimov.

“Sorry, you haven’t managed to sell those poems, have you?”

I was indeed surprised.

No, I hadn’t, and yes, I was happy to sell them.

I made less than £10 out of it once I’d cashed the foreign cheque (they didn’t do Paypal at the time). I spent the money on Something Nice, namely, a skull necklace I’d had my eye on. I thought it was appropriate; skulls being the house of creativity and symbolic of the characters I’d created.

It also started a trend.