What is it all about?

Game of Thrones is an amazing television series that everyone should watch (and read the books). As the story revolves around warlords and kings it is an obvious choice for leadership related scenes.

What do we see in this scene?

As the old saying goes The enemy of my enemy is my friend ” and Jon Snow, who is the Commander of the Night Watch, reflected deeply on that proverb. Facing an “undeadly” wall, he decided to request help from the enemy called the Free Folk (also known as Wildlings) to fight back an unavoidable war against a common foe – the Undead.

During his many skirmishes and battles, John managed to get acquainted with Wildling Chieftains and succeeded into rallying some. Now he faces with bravado all the remaining chieftains in the hope to sway their forces to his side. This part is a short part of a 4 minutes meeting.

What do we learn from Jon and Tormund

People rally around passionate leaders with a compelling vision and purpose. They also rally around one who can protect them and guarantee their well-being. When a person fights for a cause that touches many and shows passion, conviction and confidence, he can expect to have followers gathering around him.

This of course greatly relates to the cause and the tenor in gravity and urgency. For a person to deal and come to an agreement with a nemesis one can expect a strenuous and arduous path. There are many leadership styles and both Jon and Tormund differ in many ways.

There are two part to this scene:
1. Jon explaining the situation and reaching out requesting for help
2. Tormund vouching for Jon

There isn’t much to say about the first part. Jon’s speech is quite corny and preachy, yet we will see more about it later on. What is interesting is the way Tormund vouch for him. Tormund starts by saying that Jon is prettier than both his daughters which indicates two things:

1. Tormund doesn’t feel as an underling, which is important for his own credibility
2. Many leaders use their presence rather than action, and Wildlings do not care about this. They require capable leaders to help them survive and thrive. By denigrating Jon giving him this compliment, Tormund changes the atmosphere and starts with the worst about Jon. Then he goes on by using the word but to negate everything he said before; what is indeed important is than Jon, though young, knows how to fight and to lead. Tormund ends by saying without emotions and with true conviction that they need each other.

There’s a significant difference in the their verbal communication and body language which shows us that there are differences based on age, culture and experience and the two together make a winning team.

The key learning point resides however somewhere else. Jon could have gone by himself and meet with the Free Folk. However, without Tormund or another chieftain he would have probably been killed on sight. If he would have managed to have his meeting, the Free Folk might have given him little regard, and no trust. Tormund played the determining factor in these negotiations between leaders and chiefs.

In our daily life most of us don’t have to battle the Undead (or any other enemy). Our nemesis are often employees, colleagues, or top managers from other companies. So how does this scene relates to you as a modern day leader?

The right Right Hand

A leader can’t do everything and has to surround himself with the best people possible. The first one to be recruited is often the most important as he (she) will reflect the image of the leader. By rallying someone very different (or even opposite) to the cause, one can expect to reach a larger audience and gain in credibility.

The 3 R’s method

Respect, Recognition and Relatedness are essential in conflict resolution and yet there seems to be other useful R’s. Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap wrote a very interesting post about how to sway enemies to your side based on a true story. Emotions and trust are key when dealing with an enemy or someone we have a conflict with and this scene from Game of Thrones is an excellent example to explain this concept. When in a conflict, people tend to use reason to explain the situation, yet animosity between people creates an emotional barrier which has to be first nullified. Negative emotions rushes blood to the Reptilian stem rather than to the cerebral cortex; which means that people use their primary emotions instead of thinking things through.

1. Redirection

Step 1 is to redirect your rival’s negative emotions so that they are channeled away from you. In this case Jon uses first their children survival and then their common foe the Undead. Yes, they’ve all suffered in their wars, but this common foe will decimate them all. Tormund also redirected the conversation using the “prettier” introduction in his speech.

Redirecting the negative emotions on something else helps to break the emotional barrier.

2. Reciprocity

The essential principle here is to give before you ask. This again helps to break the emotional barrier further. Jon offers all the Wildling to leave the cold North and grant them access to the South where women, the elders and children can reside. This is what the Free Folk ever wanted. The meeting is actually longer than the scene above and Jon offered that before this recorded part. Tormund’s people are already in the South and therefore he can confirm it is true. In our scene, Jon states that he lost 50 of his brothers, he personally already gave a lot in the last battle with the Wildlings.

By offering shelter to the Free Folk, Jon hopes to win them to his side and have access to their warriors. It is something he can easily grant and which benefits him too.

3. Rationality

Rationality establishes the expectations. Once the emotional barrier is diminished, Jon clearly indicates he needs their help to survive and Tormund confirms they will need his help if they want to have any hope of surviving what’s coming. It’s the cold truth. The Wildlings have then to decide if their trust in Jon can help them survive the upcoming ordeal or if the Night Watch is to remain an enemy too.

The 3 R’s can be used over a conversation to resolve a conflict and also to attract new people to a cause. We talked in the previous post about leadership and preaching – in this scene Jon is also preaching, which helps him extending his vision. By combining emotions with reason, using the right structure and the help of a 3rd person of calibre anyone of us can hope to succeed in rallying people to our cause. Next would be to find out how to use it in conjunction with social media.


Interesting links

How to Rally Your Team Around a New Strategy
The 3 Rs Respect Recognition Relatedness essentials in conflict resolution
Make Your Enemies Your Allies