“It’s hard to put a leash on a dog when you place a crown on its head.”

Tyrion Lannister, a leading member of a royal family, commenting on the selection of a new king in the medieval fantasy epic Game of Thrones.

A master at commanding through powerful ideas not brawn, Tyrion offers sage leadership succession advice that is highly relevant to business executives today. He reminds us that character is paramount in selecting new leaders as one’s nature and integrity cannot be changed after being anointed to a managerial position.

Successful succession processes focus on understanding and assessing the moral fiber of potential leaders. Organizations can make up for the lack of experience in new leaders but cannot change who people are and the values they live.

It is most important to answer three key questions.  Will potential leaders provide the right environment to lead?  Are they committed to the success of the organization above their personal interests? Will they make ethical decisions?

Effective leadership succession processes focus on these questions before evaluating other selection criteria. In the Game of Thrones, Tyrion laments the consequences when this is not done.

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