Eddard (Ned) Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is a protagonist in the book A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. He is principled and tells the truth and believes in honour and justice. Ned would make an excellent Chief Risk Officer.
When King Robert Baratheon asked him to become the Hand of the King – a chief advisor to the King who executes the king’s command and speaks in the King’s voice – it was not a job Ned was seeking. He took the job because his friend needed him and Westeros needed a man like him. In that role, Ned Stark put the Kingdom first.
A successful CRO needs to be a bit like the Hand and Ned Stark. It requires someone willing to put the organization first, who tells the truth and seeks the truth. And like the role of the Hand, the CRO needs to have the power to be taken seriously so as to accomplish the organization’s objectives.
(Spoiler alert: Do not read the rest of this post if you have not read the book.)
While investigating why his predecessor was murdered, Ned identifies the biggest risk to the Kingdom: the king’s heirs are actually the progeny of Queen Cersei and her twin brother. Like a CRO, Ned tries to do the right and honourable thing and reveal the true risk to the king so it can be properly treated. But before he does, Ned approaches Queen Cersei and warns her to get out of town. Sadly, the Queen conspires to have the king murdered instead. Then with no legitimate and lawful heirs, Ned Stark suggests that the throne has to pass to Robert’s older brother Stannis; it is the right thing, the honourable thing. The truth.
But before the incestuous truths can be revealed, the Queen moves first against Ned and places her son on the throne. Ned is later beheaded for his treason.
As a risk professional I have always conducted myself like Ned Stark. Although my honour and affinity for telling the truth have perhaps gotten me beheaded once or twice as well, like the late Lord of Winterfell, I cannot behave any other way. Nor should any leader.
People in CRO (or any risk leadership) roles need to be more like Ned Stark but sadly there are too many Cerseis who place their own personal interests before the truth and their organizations. Too often they win but lately it appear the liars and cheats are paying for their crimes.