Columbia professor explains why Sansa Stark is the best leader on Game of Thrones

Over the past several seasons of Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark has gained a lot of stans. She grew from being a sniveling, spoiled brat into one of the fiercest, most nuanced characters on the show. As the race for the Iron Throne heats up, many fans have begun to argue that it’s actually Sansa who deserves to rule. One professor at Columbia is inclined to agree with them.

Bruce Craven, Columbia Business School professor and author of “Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones,” recently revealed to CNBC why he thinks Sansa has the best leadership qualities on anyone on the series.

She confronted horrible challenges. She lost much of her family. She was isolated. Yet she managed to learn from very difficult, treacherous people and, at the same time, stay true to her values about protecting her family.

She’s proven herself time and again: during her forced stay in the Red Keep, during her manipulation by Littlefinger and, finally, during her fateful encounter with the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Sansa is a fighter at heart.

On the last episode of Game of Thrones, Sansa spoke with the Hound about her ability to rise above the horrible things that happened to her and come out stronger on the other side. Her dialogue has received criticism from viewers who found her contextualization of her rape to be too cavalier to feel accurate or fair to real sexual assault victims, and it’s to see why. However, badly as the line was written, the underlying theme highlights what Craven is describing, that Sansa faced the most horrific kind of tragedy but managed to come out stronger. Her greatest success lies in remembering who she is and staying true to herself.

Craven talked about the importance of Sansa having a father and mentor like Ned Stark. While Ned may have made some blunders in his day (and, boy, did he pay the price for them), his example proved invaluable to his daughter.

Sansa managed to extract insights about the power of potential competitors while also staying true to the stronger, more admirable qualities of her father Ned … and her whole family.

I’d argue that Sansa also took leadership cues from figures like Tyrion Lannister, Margaery Tyrell and even Petyr Baelish. Her relationship with Tyrion, in particular, has proven important in recent episodes, as the former spouses reunited to face the army of the undead.

In the end, Craven simply stepped back to admire Sansa’s handiwork.

Sansa was dealt a rough deck at the beginning, but she cares, she believes and she’s stepped into leadership.

You’ve earned those stans, girl. Now go protect Winterfell’s interests.

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