Management Lessons is a weekly column that will highlight strategy tips from your favorite career women on television. This week we were lucky enough to have the Editor-in-Chief of our sister site Blisstree, Briana Rognlin, teach us about what we can learn from Queen Cersei Lannister on this spring’s hottest new show.
I have to say: HBO’s newest hit series, Game of Thrones, really caught me off-guard. I never thought I’d be so into fantasy. (Wait, what am I talking about? I love The Lord of The Rings!) But what’s really surprising is just how much a bunch of characters in a make-believe world are teaching me about work dynamics. As the name of the show would suggest, this show is all about battles over power, and like in the real world, there are plenty of contenders. Her brutal tactics (and incestuous ways) haven’t ingratiated her with audiences, but Queen Cersei Lannister (played by Lena Headey) has gotten pretty far in Season one; if you’re a hungry career-climber, she could give you a pointer or two.
There are more likeable characters to emulate (especially if you’re caught up in the idea of being honorable or ethical), but I have a soft spot for Cersei; like a lot of powerful women out there, I think she’s been somewhat unfairly demonized. She’s had a rough past (her husband has always been in love with a dead woman, while she’s been stuck watching him get it on with prostitutes and whores), but she isn’t sitting around feeling sorry for herself or agonizing over the things she’s done wrong. She’s moving forward and scrambling her way to the top. Here are a few of her best quotes to help you get your head in the game:
1) “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Perhaps Cersei’s most famous words, this quote reveals her extreme all-or-nothing attitude. (And if you’re up on your episodes, you know it gets her pretty far.) Presumably, you don’t live in a world where backstabbing is literally part of the biz, but just think about what that possibility would do for your drive. Repeat after me: Failure is not a possibility.
2) “Everyone who is not us is an enemy.” Cersei explains the world to her son, Joffrey, in no vague terms. Again, her attitude towards diplomacy might seem severe, but in a fiercely competitive environment, it’s not necessarily wrong.
3) “Sansa, sweet, you are innocent of any wrong, we know that. Yet you are the daughter of a traitor. How can I allow you to marry my son?” OK, maybe you don’t know anything about Sansa, but you don’t need to, because this quote reveals everything about how to get what you want out of your workers. Positive feedback first, negative feedback second, and then you ask them how they can serve you better. Works every time.
4) “I should wear the armor and you the gown.” Cersei’s husband is a bit of a pacifist; she’s not. When he motions for diplomacy, she makes it no secret that she’s not impressed. It’s not generally wise to tell insult the masculinity of your male colleagues like she does in her cutting remark, but I do admire Cersei’s willingness to speak up and get assertive, even in opposition to the most powerful man in the kingdom. She didn’t get ahead by letting her opinions take a back seat, and neither will you.