“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 favors 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.
7. Yara Greyjoy
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.
6. Petyr Baelish
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.
5. Brienne of Tarth
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.
4. Tormund Giantsbane
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.
3. Jon Snow
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.
2. Daenerys Targaryen
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.
1. The High Sparrow
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.