Being Jon Snow: How to Become a Business Owner’s Successor

August 18, 2021Insights

Entrepreneurs live in their own “Game of Thrones.” If you haven’t watched, you can still probably glean enough from friends and fans to know that it’s a wild ride. From the depth of the storylines to the complexity of the characters and the contrast of the protagonists, there is so much to take in. The same goes for business owners.

While navigating a world of business decisions, leaders must also understand people—especially their employees. And when it comes to building a scalable, sustainable, and salable company, a business owner must not only be a leader but find one to be their successor. They are looking for their Jon Snow, the stoic and in his own way heroic “Game of Thrones” character who always does right by his honor. More than just an emerging leader, what defines a true suitor to the throne?


Exude Confidence

A business owner wants to eventually leave their business to someone they trust. Before you can be seen as a successor, you need to show the confidence of one. That means being willing to make decisions, take accountability and accept responsibility. In “Game of Thrones,” Jon Snow doesn’t necessarily aspire to be a leader; he is designated as one. Through it all, he maintains confidence in himself and his cause.


Display Humility

The line between confidence and arrogance is a common cliché but one that is inherently subjective. In a leader, confidence has to come with humility to keep that confidence from crossing into or being perceived as arrogance. Humility makes a leader personable, relatable, and approachable. Alongside strong morals and values, Jon Snow has a likability factor that makes him more admirable. Humility is also a gateway to recognizing you can’t do it all by yourself and putting the right people around you.


Demonstrate Discipline

Leaders want to be great. And to get there, they need grit. Not just brains or brawn—and certainly not brute force—but the discipline to put in the time when it’s not always convenient or comfortable. Discipline to learn. Discipline to be consistent. Discipline to be honest, truthful, and transparent. That discipline comes from a sense of purpose. Jon Snow’s personal duty was to serve the greater good; his discipline both stemmed from and spoke to that duty.


Express Intellectual Agility

Business moves and changes fast, particularly during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. From the pivots and pauses of 2020 to the reopenings and office returns of 2021, we are living and working in nimble times. Even in normal times, intellectual agility—or the ability to detect and evaluate multiple points of view, digest changing factors, and devise new solutions—keeps leaders in tune with their teams. For someone climbing the corporate ladder and/or assuming a new leadership role, intellectual agility imparts the big picture perspective that’s so crucial to communication and collaboration.


Reveal Emotional Intelligence

Intellectual agility and emotional intelligence may sound similar, but they are not the same. Intellectual agility centers on the cerebral aspect of leadership. You’re thinking and reacting. Emotional intelligence is all about feeling. You can “read the room” and sense what others might not be saying. Jon Snow is a master of both intellectual agility and emotional intelligence, leading with equal parts head and heart.

Being Jon Snow is a lot to live up to. And for a business owner, finding Jon Snow is just as challenging. It’s a beautiful thing when the two connect.


By Andrea Steinbrenner, Chief Operations Officer, Exit Consulting Group