“Valar morghulis” is the ominous, traditional Valyrian saying that means “all men must die.” The customary reply is “valar dohaeris,” or “all men must serve.”
But what about the men and women who lead on “Game of Thrones”? There are quite a lot of leaders vying for power on the show — a few seasons ago, many of these characters were fighting in a conflict called the “War of the Five Kings.”
Some are powerful and successful players. Others are in way over their heads. We’ve taken the opportunity to rank them based on leadership ability.
A few notes: This list only counts characters who are still alive on the show (not the books). Also, it only takes into consideration individuals who could be counted as “leaders” (e.g. more solitary characters who aren’t currently in leadership roles aren’t on here, like Arya Stark, Sandor Clegane, or Samwell Tarly). Lastly, it heavily favours current events — AKA things that happened this season. This list examines leadership ability, not overall power or importance.
Now, here are the leaders on “Game of Thrones,” ranked from worst to best.
Yikes, Tommen. This guy should have just stuck with playing with his adorable kitten Ser Pounce. Because the whole 'ruling a kingdom' schtick definitely isn't working out.
So far, Tommen's allowed his wife and mother to be jailed by religious nuts, got bamboozled into drinking the Faith of the Seven Kool-Aid, and, to top it all off, has essentially handed over control of King's Landing to the High Sparrow and his robe-wearing goons.
Indecisiveness, weakness, and cowardice -- these are not hallmarks of a strong leader.
Poor Loras. It's not really his fault that he's so low on the list. The formerly carefree Knight of the Flowers has simply broke down from the abuse and isolation he suffered in prison.
He reveals this in a tearful conversation with his sister, letting her know that he's essentially given up on life. Loras isn't fit to be the heir to Highgarden in this state. Looks like it's up to Margaery to save House Tyrell.
Unsurprisingly, given his spoiled upbringing, Sweetrobin is a mess. He's so excited by the fact that his 'Uncle Petyr' brought him a falcon that he can't see that he's being manipulated into sending troops to fight the Boltons. The heir to the Eyrie is too young, clueless, and creepily fixated with throwing people through the Moon Door to make a decent leader.
Remember Edmure Tully? He was the groom at the worst, most traumatising wedding ever. His honeymoon was spent rotting in a jail cell.
This season, he's back on the scene, a pawn in the hands of the awful Freys. In the last episode, Jaime Lannister manipulated Edmure into seizing Riverrun back from his uncle, the Blackfish. Betraying the men who look up to you? Giving into your enemies without a fight? Those were some weaksauce leader moves, Edmure.
In fairness, though, Jaime had threatened to catapult his baby if we didn't comply, and the Kingslayer doesn't have a great record when it comes to kids.
Walder Rivers isn't leadership material. At all.
All Walder Fery's illegitimate son does is don the goofiest hat imaginable and plan an embarrassingly fake execution. He can't even do sieges right. And when Jaime Lannister shows up to take charge, Rivers attempts to assert himself. Spoiler: It doesn't work and he just ends up looking like a joke.
Cersei's had a rough time, lately. Reeling from her imprisonment and horrific walk of shame, she's suffered the additional indignities of having her dumb son Tommen turn on her and ruin her chances of clearing her name with a trial by combat.
This character has become a shell of the evil, wine-drinking, golden-haired queen we met in season one. She can barely even bully the sassy, elderly members of the Small Council without help from her zombie knight.
Cersei's fallen so far that many fans believe she'll take drastic action in the finale.
The Lord of the Flowers is probably one of the weakest lords we've seen yet. Under his watch, his son and daughter have been imprisoned by the Faith Militant. When he tried to ride to the rescue, he ended up looking like a buffoon when it was revealed that Margaery had seemingly succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome. As far as leaders go, he's all style and no substance.
Bran messed up big time this season. He's responsible for the deaths of his mentor the Three Eyed Raven, his direwolf Summer, and beautiful, tragic Hodor. All because he did something that he was explicitly told not to do.
Good leaders listen, Bran!
Now the most mystic of the Starks is directionless. He may be the 'new Three Eyed Raven,' but at the moment he's only alive because of poor Meera's power walking skills and Uncle Benjen's timely rescue.
Royce definitely has the interests of the Vale at heart. The Lord of Runestone's basically been running the place, acting as an unofficial regent. Still, he couldn't out-manoeuvre Littlefinger, who swept in, buttered up Sweetrobin with a falcon, and took charge.
Varys is great, but he's more of a behind the scenes guy than a take-charge leader. That's why his impromptu trip back to Westeros is a bit worrying. What does he have in mind?
Sure, Ramsay's been a relatively effective leader so far.
He's seized the North (after a terrifying spree of violence and flaying). He's risen from an obscure bastard to the Lord of House Bolton (after killing his dad and feeding his step mum and baby brother to dogs). He's married Sansa, effectively snagging the Stark legacy (before his brutality drove his new wife to flee).
Seeing a theme, here?
I don't envision Ramsay's going to survive too much longer. Good leaders get things done without acting like sociopaths. There's a certain point where people just won't want to work with you if you keep skinning people alive.
Jaqen's cool and all, but the guy runs an internship program from hell.
Plus, a man is pretty inconsistent. After sending the Waif out to kill Arya for quitting his serial killer cult, he's just cool with Arya slaying the Waif and taking off? Yeah, yeah, I'm sure it makes sense if you're into Many-Faced God mumbo jumbo. It's just not a good way to run an organisation. Good leaders stay on message.
Theon's made so much progress! A season ago, Reek wouldn't have even been on this list. Now he's reclaiming his old identity and making a few bold moves (well, they're bold for him, at least). The former heir of the Iron Islands supported his sister's bid for queendom and even gave a decent speech on her behalf. He might make a good leader yet.
Margaery's a gem. She's only so far down on this list because of truly terrible circumstances. She's married to the wimpiest king of the world, she's been targeted by the psycho Faith Militant, and now her brother's totally tapped out on her.
The girl's a born leader, though. Plus she totally flashed her Tyrell flower sign last episode, so it can be assumed that Margaery's still in the game and looking for opportunities to come back to power.
The Red Witch had a serious breakdown at the beginning of this current season. Her Prince That Was Promised turned out to be a big disappointment and she basically burned the best character in the show for nothing (RIP Shireen).
Melisandre's capable of strong and compelling leadership, but she's been pretty quiet so far this season, even after resurrecting Jon Snow. We'll just have to wait and see what her next move is.
What can you say about Ellaria? Well, I guess she accomplished her goal. The Sand Snakes killed Doran and Trystane. Well done.
But seriously, who cares? There's about to be a giant ice zombie battle up in the North. We just don't have time for the leaders in Dorne and their wacked up priorities.
Old Man Frey's the absolute worst. He couldn't even hold on to Riverrun?
The Frey patriarch leads by lying, bullying, and being odious. That's not effective in the long run. The only reason he's not lower is that he hasn't gotten his comeuppance ... yet.
Kevan's barely holding it together. He's lost his son Lancel to the insane Faith of the Seven cult. King's Landing is a terrible place to be. He can't trust Cersei or Jaime. He seems like a competent guy, but he just doesn't have much to work with right now.
We haven't seen much from Benjen yet, but it's exciting to have this long-lost Stark uncle back on the show. He seems like he's got the dirt on the Three Eyed Raven mystical stuff. It looks like he's going to be leading and mentoring Bran, Obi Wan-style. And then he'll probably be killed off for real, also Obi Wan-style.
Davos has been quietly instrumental in helping the Starks get the North back on lock. He's still more of a follower than a leader, probably from all those years spent being Stannis's right hand man. Despite this, and the fact he's way out of his element, he's put his reason and realism to good use lately, rallying loyal members of the Night's Watch to protect Jon Snow's body and giving the Red Witch a great pep talk.
The Queen of Thorns is right up there with Littlefinger in terms of wheeling and dealing on this show. She's the power behind House Tyrell. She's had a massive setback though: Margaery and Loras's imprisonment.
Still, good leaders know when to move on from a futile situation. After receiving quiet confirmation that her granddaughter is going to take care of everything, she made the smart choice and booked it out of the hell hole that is King's Landing.
You can't say Jaime's unmotivated. The things he will do for love seem to know no bounds.
Still, as evinced by his performance at the siege of Riverrun, the Kingslayer is an effective leader. He may be a powerful military man, but he's smart enough to know when he can avoid the battle and use stealth instead.
A good leader knows what battles are worth fighting.
Sansa Stark has transformed from a naive noble girl into a strong, hardened survivor. She'll do anything it takes to save her brother Rickon and reclaim her rightful home of Winterfell.
Sansa's bold, she's serious, and she's done a good job of convincing everyone from Jon Snow to that adorable, terrifying Mormont girl to fight for her.
Still, overcoming so much betrayal and trauma has left her a bit suspicious and single-minded, as evinced by her distrust of Davos and her decision to lie to Jon about contacting Littlefinger.
Good for Thoros and Beric, the leaders of the Brotherhood Without Banners. They immediately executed those creeps within their organisation -- the group that killed the Hound's band of religious friends.
Part of being a good leader is holding people accountable and protecting your brand. The Brotherhood is all about going on cool Robin Hood adventures and sticking it to the man, not murdering hippies.
You've got to love Dolorous Edd. He went from the sarcastic member of Jon Snow's squad to a leader in his own right.
He's humble though, and doesn't always own being the new Commander of the Night's Watch. Once he becomes more comfortable with the role, he'll probably prove to be a great match for this crucial position.
Tyrion's a great leader, but he's too smart for his own good sometimes. His overconfidence in his diplomatic prowess became a major issue in the last episode when, after a delightful interlude filled with jokes and drinking, the evil Masters attacked Meereen.
This only happened because Tyrion mistakenly tried to negotiate with them, instead of standing up to their demands. His reasoning wasn't terrible, but he was too confident and failed to heed the advice of the more experienced Missandei and Grey Worm. Hopefully now that Dany's back they can team up, beat the raiders, and he can go back to drinking wine and knowing things.
Grey Worm's one of Dany's top commanders at this point. He had good instincts about Tyrion's deal with the slavers. He's still a bit quiet and suspicious, but with some coaching from his bae Missandai, he'll come into his own as a leader.
Missandei's been on fire this season. She correctly called Tyrion out after the debacle with the Masters. She's got good instincts, smarts, and a skill for diplomacy. Now that Dany's back in Meereen, she's probably going to be more important than ever in the quest to reform Essos.
Theon and Yara's wacky uncle Euron showed up this season and made some big moves right out the gate. After effortlessly deposing and murdering his brother (I mean, it wasn't nice but as far as overthrowals go, it was pretty well done), he made a bold speech that rallied the Ironborn to his side. Now he's taken charge of the Iron Islands. He's a jerk but he's definitely an effective and convincing leader.
She may have just had the throne to the Iron Islands yanked out from under her, but Yara's got awesome potential.
She's actually already proven her leadership ability. Her popularity as a sea commander inspired a whole fleet to follow her on her exodus out of Pyke. Her quick thinking allowed her and her allies to flee before Euron struck. Plus, she's a penchant for inspirational speeches, as evinced by her stumping during the kingsmoot and later pep talk to convince her broken brother to take a shot.
What does Petyr Baelish want? According to him, 'everything.' Well, appearances indicate he's well on his way to getting what he wants. It's a bit hard to judge Littlefinger's leadership style, since he's such a backroom deal kind of guy. Still, you can't argue that he's ineffective. He does whatever it takes to accumulate power and protect himself, no matter who he hurts along the way.
Brienne's traditionally acted as a follower. She followed Renly, Catelyn, and now Sansa, loyally serving each of them. But that doesn't mean she's not a good leader herself. She's a firm but wise mentor to Podrick, teaching him all her sweet fighting moves. She's dispensed good advice to both Arya and Sansa. Plus, she's always remained her own person. Like any good leader, she marches to her own beat, works hard, and has become a pretty remarkable knight as a result.
Tormund has been instrumental in getting the Free Folk to team up with Jon Snow and their sworn enemies, the Night's Watch. A man who can persuade a group as diverse as the Wildlings clearly has some leadership talent.
Jon Snow's always been a reluctant leader. In fact, before Sansa knocked some sense into him, he was about to call it quits.
That doesn't mean he's a bad leader, though. He listens to advice from others. He's not in it for his own personal glory. He disciplines the people under him and holds his men accountable (especially when they murder him). He brings together disparate groups, like the Night's Watch and the Wildlings.
Perhaps most importantly, he knows when to move on to a next big project. Now we'll just have to see how he does in the highly anticipated Battle of the Bastards.
Maybe I'm just a sucker for inspirational speeches, but it was pretty epic to see Daenerys mount Drogon and testify to her new blood riders.
Dany's completely bounced back from getting mired in complicated Mereen realpolitik and getting kidnapped by the Dothraki.
Khaleesi's gone back to her roots. She's good at inspiring people with sweeping gestures and her dragon Drogon. She's proven herself capable of winning the loyalty of thousands, as only a powerful leader could.
Will that matter in the long run? Probably not. Ice zombies and dragons take precedence. King's Landing just isn't that important anymore.
Still, it's impressive that some nobody cobbler allegedly woke up hungover after a party, became disillusioned with the world, and went on to accrue so much influence that he's now basically controlling the government. He started from the bottom and now he's here, polluting Tommen's naive mind.
He's capable of bold power grabs and subtle persuasion. He's able to amass a large group of devoted Faith Militant followers, whose power lies in their numbers. He knows how to play both the powerful and the powerless.
He may be sinister or sincere. At the end of the day, it doesn't even matter. The fact is he's got mad leadership abilities. That's why he's number one on this list.
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