In a Game of Thrones analogy on leadership, leaders would be the “Maesters” or “the King’s Hand” rather than the king himself. Possessing the quintessential ability to see beyond immediate problems and constraints that come with bureaucratic titles (like that of ‘king’), these types are better equipped to handle problems and advise solutions. And today’s leaders are no different. Your job as a leader is to be exactly that wizard, though instead of alchemy and manipulation, you use ‘hacks.’

Hacking isn’t just about bypassing computer firewalls. It’s now just as much about bypassing life’s stubborn obstacles. The job of life hackers is to use ingenuity to facilitate inspiration in other people’s life, and leaders have no less demand to do just this. CBS News featured an article by Dave Logan, titled “The 3 Best Leadership ‘Hacks’”, where he defines hacking as “messing around with a highly complex system until you find a simple way to make it do things it can’t do now.” Applying the rule to leadership, Logan continues with how “leadership hacking focuses on altering a company’s ‘operating system,’ which is its organizational culture.”

Connecting Alpha Tribe Members to Create Multiple Hive Minds

Logan first recommended hack is to bring together to completely independent “tribes” that have little opportunity or need for contact. You do this by appointing the strongest leader within each tribe and introducing that individual to the other tribe – sort of like a cross pollination. Logan recommends doing this again amongst other members of the two tribes so that you’ve created multiple opportunities in one hive. In a corporate context, these tribes could be departments or even regional branches. Nonetheless, you’ve pollinated an idea cross-breeding opportunity that didn’t exist before.

In Game of Thrones, “Mother of Dragons” Daenerys Targaryen does with when she takes leading minds from far flung corners of the Earth, creating a hybrid team of advisers who not only represent four regions but also four different ways of approaching problems.

Tapping into Cultural Anthropology to Breed Profitable Ideas

Another valuable hack presented by Logan touches on previously discussed trends in corporate anthropology marketing, where product success is bred by tuning into your customer base. Here, Logan recommends reaching out to an important stakeholder group and finding a way to help them. From there, he calls for “cataloging all existing assets” and then seeing “which can become the basis of a new profitable product or service.” The goal here is to unselfishly seek out an opportunity to help stakeholders (clients, vendors, colleagues) and seeing how improvements within existing products/services or ideas for entirely new products/services can be bred from the experience.

In Game of Thrones, Davos Seaworth (The Onion Knight) took a precious minute to actually listen to what the least wanted members of Westeros were saying – the Night’s Watch. His reward for listening to their complaints included gaining a powerful ally in an otherwise crumbling kingdom and … almost securing a royal-born for sacrifice to the Lord of Light.

Crowdsourcing Insight vs. Crowdsourcing Ideas

The third hack comes from the 9Lenses blog, a company that offers software to help capture and map employee insight – which, appropriately, is also the hack they recommend. This is different than just merely suggesting leaders look to employees for ideas. This is about having a system in place to cultivate, curate, and actually crowdsource (vs. simply ask for) ideas from your tribe. And then 9Lenses uses that other key word … insight.

Insight differs from just ideas because insight isn’t about a course of action. It’s a loose pool of thoughts on your business, and it’s your job as a leader to connect the dots and see where patterns emerge and ideas flesh out. It’s a radically different approach than just dictating a request for ideas, when (a) that’s your job as a leader, so simply asking for ideas is nothing short of being a lazy leader, and (b) most companies aren’t structurally or culturally organized to have ideas emerge.

In Game of Thrones, the least civilized group is actually the one who does the best job of crowdsourcing insight. The Free Folk in the north beyond the Wall, or “wildlings” as they’re commonly referred to by everyone south of the wall, have a culture that breaks hierarchy. The result: people say what they want and the best ideas come forward freely.