Classic Leadership Wisdom: Saint Joan of Arc

George Bernard Shaw’s play “Saint Joan” is about Joan of Arc, the teenage girl who led the French army to a series of victories over the English in the 15th century. Joan is inspired by “voices”–from Saint Catherine and other heavenly figures, or so she says–which tell her to lift the siege of Orleans and put the French Dauphin on the throne. The play is about a leader’s vision and the questions it raises: Is it real? Is it to be trusted? Is it good, evil, or simply foolish?

In Scene III, Joan debates with Dunois, the French army commander, about the advisability of attacking some English forts.

DUNOIS. Be quiet, and listen to me. If I were in either of those forts with only ten men I could hold it against an army. The English have more than ten times ten goddams in those forts to hold them against us.

JOAN. They cannot hold them against God. God did not give them the land under those forts: they stole it from Him. He gave it to us. I will take those forts.

DUNOIS. Single-handed?

JOAN. Our men will take them. I will lead them.

DUNOIS. Not a man will follow you.

JOAN. I will not look back to see if anyone is following me.

–“Saint Joan,” George Bernard Shaw

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About Jocelyn R Davis

Jocelyn Davis is Principal of Seven Learning, a leadership development firm that creates a lasting lift in leaders' effectiveness using classic books, films, and stories.
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