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Judith Orloff MD Headshot

3 Things That King Joffrey Teaches Us About Reptilian Leadership

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King Joffrey Baratheon, the young 'Game of Thrones' monarch who occupied the Iron Throne and who met his death in last night's episode, may have impressed the kingdom with his brocade robes. But brocade will get you just so far. The reality is that his regal fashion garb concealed a hideous dermal truth: reptilian scales. The boyish monarch -- to reviled that his television death was anticipated to a degree where viewers could actually taste it -- epitomized what I call the Reptilian Leader, whose venom can kill careers and destroy relationships.

In my new book, The Ecstasy of Surrender I discuss the importance of letting go of the reptilian mode of leadership in order to achieve a more enlightened collaborative system. The reptilian brain is the kill or be killed instinct, the survival of the fitness. I'm asking us to function from a higher and more enlightened place.

If it's one thing we don't expect reptile leaders to ever do is surrender. For these control freaks -- and King Joffrey was one of them -- it's all about maintaining an ugly and dangerous power that defines them and helps them feel significant, rather than helping them connect to a more benevolent, self-empowering source.

What did King Joffrey's demise -- either by poisoned pigeon pie or bad wine -- teach us? Here are three key lessons.

1. Reptiles need enablers. Usually reptiles in power have their acolytes. In Joffrey's case, he had his new wife Margaery Tyrell, scheming queen material, for sure. And, of course, his mother Cersei who literally pushed Margaery out of her path as she raced towards her dying son. People who serve reptilian leaders automatically react to individuals who hold his type of power because they're often perceived as "successful," and we'd like to see a spillover effect, if we pledge loyalty to them. Underlings, no matter what their sex, are just as interested in advancing themselves as those in the inner circle.

2. Reptilian leaders mesmerize us. No matter how much we think we have our acts together, we're often plagued by fear and survival issues. Although our brains have evolved higher centers for emotion -- the limbic lobe -- and reasoning powers through the cerebral cortex, the reptilian brain often keeps up locked in a trance when it comes to primal power.

Reptilian seduction is tough to break out of. For such people, success will always depend on being stronger, bigger, better and richer. For doubters, just take a look at King Joffrey's wedding pie, which was so large that it needed its own zip code. And being in control and making conquests will always trump sensitivity. Remember, reptiles are cold-blooded and emotionless, with some snakes abandoning their young right after birth.

3. Reptilian rulers like large kingdoms. For King Joffrey, only all of Westeros would suffice, along with the elimination of his perceived enemies. In other words, co-rulership is out of the question. In fact, a human reptile will interpret even a sincere display of empathy -- such as Joffrey's brother Tyrion was trying to demonstrate -- as a questioning of their prowess in the world. Reptilian types -- secretive and manipulative -- are proud of being rulers of their domain, no matter the methods they take to increase the size.

Research has provided indisputable evidence that hard power is fueled by a cocktail of potent neurochemicals. These substances, which are truly addictive, provide the sort of rush that turn people into the sort of reptilian leaders that are the scourge of companies and organizations. Given this is the case, it was a delicious twist that King Joffrey was sent to an early grave by some sort of toxin that served as a parallel to those neurochemicals. Whether in life or in death, as we saw in the episode of 'The Game of Thrones,' a reptilian leader is filled with poison.