I really like Game of Thrones and have been following the series too closely for around eight years now. Let me just validate myself real quick with: I was reading Game of Thrones before talking about dragons was socially acceptable. Ok, now my ego feels much better.
Season 7 of the show has been incredibly exciting, and for someone who has been waiting eight years for full grown dragons to do something, I couldn’t be more pleased with their on screen depiction. However, there are certain storylines and plot threads the showrunners have decided upon that are infuriating in their incongruity with the already established rules of this universe. Chief among them are Euron’s magical teleporting fleet that always seems to be in the right place at the right time, the seeming short sightedness of the supposedly immovable and implacable Iron Bank, and perhaps most ridiculously, Jaime not only surviving his ill conceived bid to end the war by killing Daenerys, but escaping utterly unharmed and unmolested (with best friend Bronn equally intact).
This show has always worked best for me because the world follows rules similar to our own, it’s honest in its brutality and unfairness but equally soaring in its victories. So when the show deviates from its well established structure for the sake of falling into well worn fantasy tropes, I can’t help but get a bit disillusioned.
It’s in that vein that I would like to make the following argument: Jon Snow is a failure of a leader.
Without a doubt, the great leaders of my generation aren’t to be found in the Oval Office or the halls of the Capitol Building, they are most likely hovering somewhere around Greenwich, Connecticut. Ray Dalio, Clifford Asness, and John Bogle are amongst the most prominent and successful CEOs alive and like Ygritte, have a lot to teach Jon Snow.
In a recent Bloomberg article, Ray Dalio outlines some of his keys to success. “Don’t try to please everyone,” “Clearly assign responsibilities,” “Don’t bet too much on anything.” If this were a test, Jon would score 0 out of 3. In Jon’s attempt to appeal to both the wildlings and northern lords, he is setting himself up for sabotage. We don’t quite know what Littlefinger is up to in Winterfell, but there’s not doubt in my mind Littlefinger will attempt to take advantage of both Jon’s extended absence and his proclivity for throwing himself in harm’s way.
Jon is also incapable of delegating efficiently. Leaving aside the fact that family members during feudal times served as the premier liaisons between lords; Jon’s decision to go himself on the expedition beyond the wall is evidence enough for his failure to delegate intelligently. Which leads me to my next point, that Jon is taking the ultimate gamble by once again ranging beyond the wall and quite literally walking into the belly of beast. Why does Jon need to be there? Sure the show gives us some flimsy justification, but let’s be completely honest, that epic fellowship of fighters doesn’t really need him. Tormund has just as much experience fighting wights as Jon and has lived beyond the Wall his entire life. He’s a king and in some ways his continued survival is the only thing keeping all these delicate strands from utterly unraveling. Which, of course, makes this risk all the more… stupid.
For example, without Jon, the wildlings and northern lords would never effectively communicate or work alongside one another. This relationship is vital to the literal future of humanity, so Jon should be teaching Sansa, or whoever else could succeed him, the nuances of both cultures in order to communicate their shared values and goals.
In an interview with Barry Ritholz, Tim Buckley talks about the grooming process for CEOs at Vanguard. “Buckley: I’ve had the distinct opportunity to work with all three of Vanguard’s CEOs and have learned so much about our company, the investment management business, the financial markets, and leadership. There could be no better training ground than spending my entire 26-year career at Vanguard and the last 16 years on the senior leadership team.”
The clear link between successful leaders and those who are not is their ability to share their wisdom so that when they are gone their legacy will live on. Cults of personality fail because the leader thinks he is special and is the only one capable of dealing with the knowledge they possess. If Jon wants to lead the world against the forces of evil he must learn how to share his unique wisdom.
Yes, the current threat is real and all encompassing, but Jon must understand how the political and social infrastructure in the North relies solely and completely on his existence. Jon’s blindness in this is particularly frustrating considering not 15 episodes ago he was being stabbed to death by men he trusted. He of all the characters should understand the fragility of his own life and be planning for when he’s not around. His purported unwillingness shows a naivete on what it really means to lead.
I understand that there are perhaps certain timing considerations in play prohibiting Jon from being a purveyor of information, but that will always be the case. There are never ‘all clear’ signals in life that will make the timing of when to do things obvious. The smarter approach to life is to always be preparing for the worst because we never know when exactly winter comes.
*This was heavily edited by my sister, for I couldn’t write any Game of Thrones content without consulting my maester.