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DRAGONMOUNT

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Month of the Greats: Great Leaders in Fiction


Mashiara Sedai
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Since we've been having a discussion about what constitutes greatness in our leaders, it makes me wonder if we have the same definition for our fictional leaders. It is their actions, their circumstances, their environment that make them great?

 

Naturally, I'll start the discussion off with Rand al'Thor. Please remember, NO A Memory of Light spoilers are allowed. There will be spoilers for the rest of the books, though.

 

Rand first gets his taste of leadership in The Great Hunt, when he, Loial, and Hurin get separated from the rest of Ingtar's group. Rand didn't want that responsibility, but Hurin's faith in a Lord pushed Rand to embrace the role. And in that book, he did a very good job of being the leader.

 

But, as Rand's responsibilities grow, he starts to lose sight of those humble beginnings. He begins to see people as tools, not as people.

 

Yet, when forced to make a decision, to fight for the Light or to succumb to the Shadow, Rand was able to do the best for the people of the world and himself. After "Veins of Gold" in The Gathering Strom, Rand truly embraced his greatness.

 

So what along his journey made him great? Was it his actions: cleansing saidin, uniting all the kingdoms of the world, fighting the Shadow at every turn? Was it his circumstance: being born with Lews Therin in his head, growing up "better" in the Two Rivers, being treated like a Lord when he really wasn't? Or his environment: the general climate of the politics of the world forcing him to do what he had to, those surrounding him and giving their own take on events? Or, is it a combination of all three?

 

It's also possible people don't think Rand was a great leader. He made a lot of mistakes and tried to run from his responsibilities on occasions.

 

So, what about Rand makes him great (or not)? What other fictional characters embody greatness? Harry Potter? Paul Atreides? Eddard Stark? Ender Wiggin?

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I think what made Rand great as a leader was the combination of the lessons he learned along the journey. This could be true about most of them I think. They are never perfect to start with. Especially in Rand's case, when we first meet him he's just a kid!

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Rand's epiphany on Dragonmount (Veins of Gold) clinched it, I think. He still made mistakes after that but he regained his humanity and empathy.  

 

There are strong leaders, there are good leaders, and there are strong, good leaders.  There are also strong bad leaders. Had Rand continued trying to be "steel" he would have ended up as a strong bad leader.

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Good point, Daruya.  I think we see a lot of strong bad leaders, for instance (Mistborn spoiler):

 

 

 

The Lord Ruler.  He took the power at the Well of Ascension because he thought the world would be better under his rule.  He kept the power away from Ruin.  Yet, what he did was terrible.  Turning his followers into Kandra, enslaving the Skaa. Ruling over everyone with fear and terror. 

 

 

With the upcoming movie, what do you feel about Ender Wiggin as a leader?  Once he took on his leadership role, he distanced himself from everyone.  He became separate from them--almost the same way Egwene did when she became Amyrlin.  Was Ender a good leader?  (Ender's Game spoilers):

 

 

 

He was successful with his mission.  He defeated the Bugger homeworld.  But, does success lead to being "good"?  Ender had a very hard time with his responsibilities.  And stopped leading the moment he had victory.  He could have continued being a leader, helping Peter rule the Hegemony.  But Ender didn't want it.  So, was it better for him to step down?  Or should he have continued to be a leader?

 

 

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I haven't read the book but I think Ender was a good leader in the fact that he knew when to quit. I believe that it takes a strong leader to know their limits and recognize when they have reached them.

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I agree with you Rhea.  An important aspect of having authority is knowing when to let it go.

 

What about Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones (spoilers!)

 

 

 

Ned starts the story as a image of authority.  He does the hard tasks--executing the deserters in front of his children--and never lets his personal beliefs compromise his duty.  That's what leads him to revealing the fact that Joffrey isn't really King Robert's son.  He sticks to his guns, until the very end.  At that moment, to spare his children, I'm sure, he says he lied and repents.  Yet, Joffrey still had him executed.  Which of these make Ned a good leader?  Is it his initial devotion to honor and truth?  Or is it his abandonment of said virtues when he feels his children are threatened?

 

 

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I think Rand's evolution from small village sheep herder to the most powerful man in the world couldn't have been done without mistakes and bumps in the road.  That he was able to accomplish all that he did was credit to his character.

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I think Veins was a pivitol point for Rand, but I think it really just highlighted/showcased what was already there. Rand had all the skills, tools, heart and abilities to Lead ...Veins, the fight with Tam and the Seanchan helped him "get over himself" and bring all those other values into focus. Rand was already concerned about leaving something. He made new laws that were more humanitarian and progressive. He sought to win the peoples he conquered over, not subjugate them under an iron fist. Even when confronted with unlimited power and a "greater good" rationale, Rand chose NOT to destroy Ebou Dar ... All this was BEFORE Veins.

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I agree with you Rhea.  An important aspect of having authority is knowing when to let it go.

 

What about Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones (spoilers!)

 

 

 

Ned starts the story as a image of authority.  He does the hard tasks--executing the deserters in front of his children--and never lets his personal beliefs compromise his duty.  That's what leads him to revealing the fact that Joffrey isn't really King Robert's son.  He sticks to his guns, until the very end.  At that moment, to spare his children, I'm sure, he says he lied and repents.  Yet, Joffrey still had him executed.  Which of these make Ned a good leader?  Is it his initial devotion to honor and truth?  Or is it his abandonment of said virtues when he feels his children are threatened?

 

 

 

I think that Ned's sticking to honor and truth was the sign of bad leadership.

 

 

His honor led him to inform Cersei that he knew what the big secret was, giving her the chance to move against him. Renly offered him troops to keep his position and take power away from the Lannisters, which would have in the long run helped him see that the right thing was done, since he'd need to remain in power for that. Instead, his insistence on doing the honorable thing (and assuming that everyone else would also, which was an even worse mistake) got his men killed and him arrested as a traitor. It wasn't until he was rotting in a cell that he figured out how badly he had misplayed things.

 

Edited by Basel Gill
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I agree with you Rhea. An important aspect of having authority is knowing when to let it go.

 

What about Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones (spoilers!)

 

 

 

Ned starts the story as a image of authority. He does the hard tasks--executing the deserters in front of his children--and never lets his personal beliefs compromise his duty. That's what leads him to revealing the fact that Joffrey isn't really King Robert's son. He sticks to his guns, until the very end. At that moment, to spare his children, I'm sure, he says he lied and repents. Yet, Joffrey still had him executed. Which of these make Ned a good leader? Is it his initial devotion to honor and truth? Or is it his abandonment of said virtues when he feels his children are threatened?

 

 

 

I think that Ned's sticking to honor and truth was the sign of bad leadership.

 

 

His honor led him to inform Cersei that he knew what the big secret was, giving her the chance to move against him. Renly offered him troops to keep his position and take power away from the Lannisters, which would have in the long run helped him see that the right thing was done, since he'd need to remain in power for that. Instead, his insistence on doing the honorable thing (and assuming that everyone else would also, which was an even worse mistake) got his men killed and him arrested as a traitor. It wasn't until he was rotting in a cell that he figured out how badly he had misplayed things.

I completely agree. I have felt from the beginning Ned was not the leader he was made out to be because he couldn't handle the subtle politics. To me this is the same as Robert being a great Warrior, but not a good King. A good leader adapts and has many tools to achieve success. Ned simply could not do this ... maybe hes only good at "stark" governance ... LOL

 

* sidenote If Littlefinger were more "external" or in it for others, he might have been a good leader, but he's definitely about Littlefinger, not leading.

Edited by AesSedaiGuy
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This is something that's always bugged me about Disney's The Little Mermaid.  SPOILERS (though, seriously, is there anyone who hasn't seen it?):

 

 

 

At the end, when Ariel's debt is called in by Ursula, King Triton hands over his whole country to save his daughter.  I always wondered why he put the needs of one (who made her own decisions willingly and they just turned out to be bad decisions) ahead of the many.  *lol*  Now I sound like a communist. 

 

But, at the same time, would we really want a ruler in charge of us who didn't have that kind of emotion?  If he had let Ariel die, we'd say he was a bad father.  We'd say that his love for her wasn't strong.  And we don't want a leader who lacks such an important emotion. 

 

So Ned's honor made him a bad ruler.  Is King Triton one as well because he didn't do what was best for his people?

 

 

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I wouldn't say Ned was bad ... I would say he wasnt great.

 

As for Triton ... Yes, that would make him a bad leader outside of Disney. A Great Leader would have figured out an alternative solution. Challenged Ursula, sacrificed themselves, out tricked her ... Any other option rather than giving up the independence of citizens and forcing them to be subjugated to an evil sea witch ... Just sayin' ... ;)

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I agree with this ^   Triton should have tried tricking her or gave himself up or something other than handing over the whole sea kingdom to an evil witch. As for Ned, he definitely should have weighed the options a bit better and realized the Lannisters are not fair and honorable and so kept his secret to himself until he had a major plan in place with Robert in the loop too. 

 

I always thought Rand was great!!! He was a great kid, he was a great hot mess throughout the books, and even greater in the end!!!

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