Sansa’s luck is running out (season 5, episode 6)

19 May 2015 by in Business and finance, Entertainment, Game of Thrones on Business


Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones season 5 could have been the most disturbing yet. I am currently in mourning thinking of the fate of my future husband Jorah and his current sidekick Tyrion, who is heading for sale by cock-merchant. The only light relief in episode 6 was Bronn and Jaime’s bromance which looks likely to end very soon.

However, it is Sansa’s fate that is the cruellest of all. It is clear that Lord Baelish never had her best interests at heart when he sold her to Roose Bolton as a daughter-in law. Her engagement to Ramsay Bolton (/Snow) is the third in the series and the worst yet. The only redeeming quality that Ramsay has is to make King Joffrey look desirable. So she is now married to the most sadistic man in Westeros and her luck is running out. As she remarked to her new husband, though she did not want to marry Tyrion, he was at least kind and did not touch her. The same cannot be said for Ramsay, who raped her in front of her sort-of brother Theon/Reek. It was then, more than ever, that Theon should have remembered himself and finally avenged the hurt that Ramsay had caused him.

Sansa Ramsay wedding

Though living in King’s Landing was incredibly unpleasant for Sansa, Rebecca Clare, co-author of Game of Thrones on Business suggests that, “In the vicious world of Westeros, where professional development is scarce, the King’s Landing mentoring programme may be [Sansa’s] best chance of survival”. Under Cersei’s guidance, Sansa was being prepared for a marriage of convenience and learnt how to live as a woman in a man’s world.

Of course, arranged marriages are nothing new, you only have to look at a history of the British Royal Family to see that marriage was another tool in their arsenal to ensure political harmony, financial gain and an excellent line of succession. Sansa has been a victim several times over. Now that she is back in her home of Winterfell, she is more vulnerable than ever. Sure, her marriage to Ramsay should, in theory, keep her safe, but it was clear from this episode that Lord Baelish has no qualms about selling her out for his own gain. Little Finger is playing the long game, he is in this for all he can get and has perfectly manoeuvred his pawn Sansa into the Bolton’s hands. What choice did she have but to walk down that aisle?

Only Theon knows that the younger Stark boys are still alive and given that Bran has not appeared in this series yet, I think it’s safe to say that he is not really a threat to taking back Winterfell. Sansa’s other brother, the illegitimate Jon Snow is too preoccupied at The Wall to help out his sister, that is if he even knows she’s alive. Perhaps it would have been better for Sansa if Jon had accepted Stannis’ offer of legitimacy and marched on Winterfell. Only time will tell how Sansa’s story will end, but if the fate of her other family members is anything to go by, she doesn’t have long.

However, Sansa is not naive. In the past four and a half seasons, she has survived some pretty dire situations. She has been mentored by the ultimate matriarch, Cersei Lannister, and is incredibly strong. From the first season, she has been separated from her family, she has had to think for herself. She is a singular unit, a city-state. By all accounts, she should be dead already, but she isn’t. She has a price on her head and is wanted for killing King Joffrey, but yet still she endures. Though her wedding night to her new husband was difficult to watch, we haven’t seen the end of Sansa yet. But, then again, all men must die, so perhaps her end is nigh…


Cersei’s alliance with the High Sparrow is at a tipping point (Game of Thrones season 5, episode 4)

5 May 2015 by in Business and finance, Entertainment, Game of Thrones on Business


Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was a rollercoaster of action and plot developments. The series is finally picking up momentum with uprisings in King’s Landing and across the sea in Meereen. While Daenerys’ servant leadership style worked well in the beginning, those who disagree with her management style have finally begun to rise up. The episode had a religious-extremism quality to it, with the Sons of the Harpy avenging the toppling of their idol in Essos and the High Sparrow commanding his followers to begin to stir up the status quo in Westeros. It was an emotional finale, finally confirming that this series has divorced itself from the books and killing off two important characters. Poor Grey Worm. Daenerys is going to be left with little leverage to refuse Jorah when he returns. The unsullied are dwindling in numbers. (Sidenote: we really liked Jorah’s skirt; it takes a real man to pull off such an outfit when at sea!)

So back to King’s Landing where Cersei seems to have sold her soul, quite literally, to religious extremists. It’s one thing to want to take revenge against the daughter-in-law from hell, but it’s quite another to make a deal with the devil (ahem, the High Sparrow) in an effort to assert one’s superiority over the King’s Court. Now that the numbers of the Small Council have fallen to just two (and what influence does doddering Grand Maester Pycelle really have?) Cersei is running the Court of the King with an iron fist. Now that Sir Loras has been imprisoned, Margery is compromised and Cersei has the upper hand.

However, the danger of making a deal with one as powerful as the High Sparrow is that alliances of convenience can turn on you just as quickly. Unless you hold the power, you are at the mercy of your alliance. The followers of the High Sparrow, weird monk-like extremists, are the unsullied of Westeros, willing to maim themselves for their master. Even the King is powerless before them. Though the alliance was convenient for Cersei in the beginning, this is a dangerous coalition as Cersei is now alone in the court. With Jaime gone and her father dead, her list of allies is very small indeed. What would the High Sparrow make of the (true) rumours about her and Jaime? Will Cersei survive this season? With only a week left of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition of 2010, and the political parties of the UK gearing up for polling day, it would seem that coalitions are forming everywhere. David Cameron was outed as having confessed that he did not believe that his party would again win the election outright. If we’ve learnt anything from the last coalition, it’s that it was a marriage of convenience, much like Cersei and Robert Baratheon. Eventually cracks will begin to show if you cannot work alongside your ally. Cersei’s latest partnership could prove to be more destructive than the last.

Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: Cersei is about to pay for having too much power for far too long.


Jon Snow’s emerging as an effective leader (a review of last night’s Game of Thrones)

28 April 2015 by in Business and finance, Entertainment, Game of Thrones on Business

Jon Snow leadershipWARNING, SPOILERS

We learnt several things from last night’s episode of Game of Thrones (season 5, episide 3). Firstly, and most disturbingly, Sansa is to marry Ramsay Bolton, the most evil man on television. Secondly, we learnt that no matter how dirty he gets Jorah’s neck-ties always look in pristine condition. And the final lesson from episode three is that Jon Snow is becoming more and more powerful.

May I just say that I am really pleased that Jon rejected Stannis’ offer of making him officially a Stark. ‘You know nothing, Jon Stark’ just doesn’t roll as easily off the tongue, does it? It takes a confident and self-assured person to turn down Stannis. Who knows what that creepy red witch will do to you? However, Jon’s rejection of the offer to be king of Winterfell and stay with the Night’s Watch demonstrates loyalty to his men and a commitment to lead them when they are weakest. Yes, he could be much more powerful, but he is loyal to those who took him in when he had nowhere to go. In last week’s episode the men of the Wall voted Jon to be their new leader. In the battle against Mance Rader’s army Jon proved that he has strong leadership qualities and an instinct for battle (besides being a clever little twat).

Well, clever little twat no more. Last night Jon proved not only worthy as leader of the Night’s Watch, but as having the potential for much much more. If taking Winterfell had been offered to many other characters (we’re looking at you, Lord Baelish) they would most likely have jumped at the chance, not looking ahead at the repercussions or how limited their time in power may end up being. Jon can see the bigger picture. He understands that taking Winterfell would not have ended his troubles; by now he too is aware of the Mother of Dragons.

So, in the latest instalment Jon enacted his first act of discipline as leader of the Night’s Watch. After Janos Slynt refused to obey orders Jon was forced to execute him in the courtyard of Castle Black with all eyes of the Night’s Watch upon him. Just two episodes earlier Jon showed mercy when it came to the death of Mance Rader. He had pleaded with him to surrender to Stannis and when he refused Jon spared him from the agony of being burnt alive. However, Jon’s execution of Janos not only shows him as a powerful leader who is not to be messed with, it demonstrates how much has changed in Jon since the first series. Ned Stark said at the very beginning that ‘the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword’. Jon was echoing the rhetoric of his father and proving that he was a truer son of Winterfell by rejecting Stannis than he would ever be had he accepted the offer. When Janos begged for mercy, Jon did not show it (much like Daenerys in episode two). Being an effective and trustworthy leader does not mean always keeping those you lead happy. It is about setting an example and knowing what is in the best interest of the future of your company and the safety of those you protect. For Jon Snow, the journey is just beginning.


Seven lessons of leadership we learnt from The Office

8 April 2015 by in Authentic leadership, Business and finance, Entertainment

Dwight managerOf course, Michael Scott was not the only boss that the Scranton office of Dunder Mifflin had over the years. Sadly, he left at the end of series seven and his successors had leadership styles that were entirely their own. Given that there were lots of successors, we can gather that they weren’t exactly incredibly successful. However, we can learn from each character something valuable about leadership.

  1. Robert California. This was the sex-crazed boss who took over after it turned out that Will Ferrell was only contracted for a few episodes. As Robert California stared down the camera at the audience, we knew that we were in for a unique style of leadership. Eventually it all got too much for him and he left Dunder Mifflin never to be seen again. However, though his character was scary and intimidating in the beginning, we began to think him not as mad as he initially seemed.
  2. Andy Bernard. Whether you believe David Wallace really should have chosen Andy to replace Robert California as manager of the Scranton branch, Andy certainly had camaraderie with his employees. It can be hard to lead when you are promoted ahead of your peers and gaining their trust when you once bantered with them at the water cooler can be difficult. However, Andy’s biggest faux pas as boss was not to undermine his former colleagues, but to disappear entirely for three months on a sailing trip with no prior warning. During his absence, the company was incredibly profitable which only served to demonstrate how superfluous Andy was both as an employee, and as regional manager.
  3. Nellie Bertram. If you see a job that you want, simply give yourself that role. Catherine Tate’s character effortlessly assumed the role as manager of the company when Andy went off on his sailing trip. Though never formally employed, she managed to manipulate her way into the company in the final seasons. Initially abrasive and rude, Nellie softened up and revealed her more vulnerable side. As a manager, she wasn’t much cop but given that she actually turned up for work everyday, she did much better than Andy!
  4. Jo Bennet. Played by the fantastic Kathy Bates, Bennet is a character who takes no nonsense from anyone. Once she’s bought Dunder Mifflin, she makes sure that productivity in each branch is high. This Southern woman is not to be messed with, putting Michael right in his place after he attempts to woo her and bring out her softer side.
  5. Jan Levinson. Frequently the butt of sexist jokes and banter in the office and the warehouse, Jan was able to rise above and succeed in a ‘man’s job’. Her relationship with Michael Scott could be seen as a faux pas as he was a liability when it came to liaising with corporate. However, after a successful boob job and leaving Michael, she became the leader of her own company and the epitome of the successful self-made woman and single mother.
  6. David Wallace. He is a complicated character but we can establish that he really is just trying to do what’s best for the business. It can’t be easy having to manage people like Michael Scott without firing them at the first opportunity. However, Wallace’s plan to usurp Jan with a new employee was not handled well in season three, it’s always good to give someone the ‘heads up’ before you interview for their replacement in front of them. Wallace also made a bad business decision by hiring Ryan, previously an intern at Scranton who had not made a single sale. The power eventually got to Ryan’s head and he had to be let go. However, Wallace gained back his credibility after being laid off by buying back Dunder Mifflin from Robert California and reinstating himself as CFO. His character arc truly went full circle and he was probably one of the sanest people on the show.
  7. Dwight K. Schrute. Dwight is the perfect example of earning your leadership role. His first chance as boss is cut dramatically short after he fires a gun in the office. However,  by the end of the show we are really rooting for him to become regional manager of Dunder Mifflin. After years of painful pranks from Jim, giving himself the ‘assistant to the regional manager’ title and his lifelong dedication to his job (Dwight wanted to die at his desk, then quits his job after going over Michael’s authority to Corporate) he finally becomes the character that could. He is the success story of Scranton.

Whether you think any of these characters actually deserved to be regional manager is up to you. They certainly all had a unique style of leadership. Perhaps if they’d all read Bas Blekkingh’s Authentic leadership, they would have all been a little bit better at their jobs.

Authentic Leadership

7 reasons why Michael Scott is NOT the ‘World’s Best Boss’

1 April 2015 by in Authentic leadership, Business and finance, Entertainment

Michael Scott bad bossLast week we wrote about how much we admired Michael Scott for the leadership lessons that he could teach us. However, we’re sure you’re all thinking that there were more than a few occasions when Michael’s managerial qualities were somewhat lacking. So, in the interest of fairness, we have balanced out last week’s list with seven reasons why Michael Scott could have perhaps done with reading Bas Blekkingh’s Authentic leadership and getting a few tips on how to improve his skills.

  1. Lack of productivity. Michael Scott is a procrastinator, if there was an award for this he would most certainly win it. Remember the episode where he had to sign three different things before the end of the day and nobody left before seven because it was too much work? Or how about when Jan asked Pam to write down everything Michael did one day (spoiler: he waited in line for a pretzel). Michael’s inability to knuckle-down almost lost him his job when two companies were forced to merge.
  2. Mixing business and romance. From the very first episode, Jan Levinson was a part of the Dunder Mifflin company and the victim of Michael’s ‘that’s what she said’ jokes. However, somehow, something like love managed to blossom between the two of them, but not without serious consequences for their jobs and the company. When Michael demands a raise, Toby points out that this may be the first time ever a male subordinate has withheld sex from a female superior until he gets offered more money. Thankfully, Jan and Michael parted ways after a relationship that was tumultuous at best. We can all learn from this that sleeping with your boss is never a good idea and that mixing business and pleasure can often end in tears (take heed, Jon Snow and Ygritte!)
  3. Lack of discretion. It is well known that Michael Scott cannot keep secrets but sometimes this can be incredibly damaging. When he found out that Oscar was gay, he inadvertently ‘outed’ him to the whole office. This was a dangerous move and Dunder Mifflin suffered because of this: Oscar got months of paid leave as well as compensation. Michael’s lack of subtlety, however, goes much deeper, as he said to Oscar, ‘your gayness does not define you, your Mexicanness defines you’. In the episode, ‘The Convict’, Michael also tells the office which of the employees has a criminal record and that person then quits. Good leaders instil confidence in their employees and make them feel they can share problems in confidence.
  4. Selfish desires. Michael’s desperation to be the centre of attention or the joke-teller often means that he puts his own needs before those of his employees and the work of the office. Frequently targets are missed because Michael has decided to distract the office with his own personal problems. Take the episode ‘The Injury,’ for example, where Michael demands the office rally around him because he burnt his foot on his George Foreman grill.
  5. Undisguised hatred of Toby Flenderson. Remember that episode where Michael took the office to the beach in an attempt to see who would make a good replacement? Well Toby doesn’t. He had to stay in the office and man the phones while the others had a fun day out. That’s because Michael develops an intense and irrational hatred of the human resources guy. You can’t be expected to get on with everyone in your office, especially if it’s a big corporation with lots of departments. However, Michael’s dislike of Toby progresses throughout the series in an extreme manner; Michael does not hide his feelings from his employees, or indeed Toby himself, ‘If I had a gun with two bullets, and if I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden & Toby, I would shoot Toby twice’. Harsh words from a mostly harmless man – authenticity needn’t mean brutal honesty.
  6. General idiocy. Michael, though kind and mostly harmless, has no common sense, which often means that he is the butt of his employees’ jokes and can seem to have little control over his office. A good manager should know what’s going on in their office at all times and not let their employees take too many liberties. Work can be fun, yes, but it should also achieve something. Michael famously declares, ‘I love inside jokes. Love to be a part of one someday’, which shows just how little idea he has about what his employees say about him when he is not around; they are not laughing with him, but rather at him.
  7. Favouritism. Michael makes no secret of the fact that Ryan and Jim are his favourites in the office. Meredith and Toby, on the other hand, are frequently on the receiving end of Michael’s scathing remarks. Dwight constantly strives to be loved but never gets to be seen as ‘cool’ in Michael’s eyes, instead becoming his fall-guy and wasting career-building time on Michael’s hare-brained schemes. Roping in Dwight on ridiculous plans means that less work is done in the office (see point 1). Remember when Michael refused to pay for the pizza that he ordered because they wouldn’t accept a discount coupon? He locked the delivery boy in the conference room while asking for a ransom from the pizza company. He also asked Dwight to go with him to look at a house he was interested in buying, taking advantage of working hours to run personal errands.

Love him or hate him, Michael was definitely unique in his approach to leadership. Clearly he was a good salesman once upon a time, which is why he was promoted to a more senior role, but one that he was not very well suited to. Bas Blekkingh’s book, Authentic leadership, is based on a seven-layer model that leaders can work through to make them the most productive that they can be.

Authentic Leadership

What can Tesco learn from Daenerys Targaryen?

27 March 2015 by in Business and finance, Entertainment, Game of Thrones on Business

It was announced at the end of last year that Tesco would be closing several stores to make up for the deficit of billions of pounds lost in 2014. Whether this is a strategic retreat or an unplanned but necessary downsizing is yet to be seen. But perhaps we can hold off panic buying their ‘Finest’ range just yet, especially if the company is willing to take a few lessons from an unexpected source.

With the rise in the UK of the ‘Big Four’ supermarkets, we seem to be getting ever closer to a bust after the great supermarket boom. Competition is healthy, but how many supermarkets do we really need? There’s only so much room in our cupboards for baked beans and marmite so is there really any need for a Sainsbury’s next to a Tesco Express just down the road from Morrisons? Do the supermarkets know something that we don’t? Is the zombie apocalypse approaching quicker than expected and is their sole purpose to provide enough supplies for us to ride it out?

So perhaps this strategy of retreat from Tesco is a wise business move. They are currently bleeding money by the billions and need to reassess their place in the market. Rather than building another superstore in the middle of nowhere, perhaps the sensible business move under new boss Dave Lewis really is to take a step back and assess the best place to take the company from here. The loss of revenue has shown that all these superstores are not essential to the modern day consumer.

Daenerys dragon

The link might not be immediately apparent but strategic downsizers might learn a thing or two by watching Game of Thrones. Once, the Targaryens ruled the seven kingdoms; for 300 years they were the most powerful family. When the show begins, Daenerys and her brother Viserys are in exile, across the NarrowSea, in Essos. An unplanned and unwanted retreat has turned into a game played at a tactical distance. The last Targaryen (under 100), Daenerys, is not out of the game, merely taking time to reinforce her strengths and address her weaknesses, planning her next move carefully and assessing what she wants. To do this is not a sign of retreat or weakness, or an indication that she’s out of the game. Daenarys’ marriage to Khal Drogo was a strategic alliance to increase strength and numbers before the advance.

Of course, not everything goes to plan. Trial and error in business is sometimes necessary to success. One cannot build an empire without failure and learning from mistakes. By the end of season one, Daenerys’ husband has died, the Dothraki have deserted her and she is in danger of losing everything; that is, until her dragons hatch. She is the Mother of Dragons, and having found strength from an unexpected source she now has an advantage over all her opponents.

Recently, Tesco has been accused of practising low trading standards when it comes to its suppliers, withholding payments, and breaching suppliers’ trust in an effort to win the ‘supermarket war’ with its competitors. Much like King Joffrey, who thinks nothing of torturing a subordinate, Tesco is beginning to reap what it sowed. The backlash from Ned Stark’s beheading at the end of season one immediately set up Joffrey as the ultimate villain and began the War of the Five Kings. What can Tesco, the non-beheading supermarket, learn from this? Perhaps the moral is to not believe too strongly in your own invincibility – in business as in war nobody is invulnerable (just ask Gregor Clegane after his almost-defeat by Oberyn Martell). Tesco is unlikely to step as close to the brink as Ser Gregor but wobbles like this make consumers more aware of the politics behind their store cupboard essentials.