Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister get a lot of attention as the heroes, or antiheroes, of the HBO show "Game of Thrones." But Bruce Craven, Columbia Business School professor and author of "Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones," tells CNBC Make It that the character with the best leadership qualities is none other than Sansa Stark.
Various characters from all over the seven kingdoms have maneuvered and manipulated their way around each other in their pursuit for power since the show debuted in 2011, but Sansa has succeeded where many of her friends — and enemies — have not.
"She confronted horrible challenges. She lost much of her family. She was isolated," says Craven. "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 has managed to survive devastating conflict in Westeros, help reunite her family and bring stability back to Winterfell.
Craven says Sansa's strength comes from her ability to face and overcome adversity without compromising the positive traits that define her. "All of us in this real world, where we operate, are going to face adversity," he says. "We're going to need to be resilient. If we don't face adversity, we're not trying hard enough."
Sansa's leadership style comes largely from her father, Lord Ned Stark, Craven says.
Even after he's gone, and even when other characters attempt to use or manipulate her, the wisdom Ned imparted to his daughter about the core values of honor, family and perseverance contributes to her success. "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," Craven says.
Sansa has shown that she's able to recognize when someone is working for her best interests or against them, and to learn from all kinds of people.
Craven writes in "Win or Die" that effective leaders often get help from mentors: "I think everyone should find that opportunity to purposefully work with a coach who can give them objective guidance, who can listen to them, and who can help drive their own insights about what they want to achieve in life and how they should achieve it."
Despite the challenges and losses Sansa has had to endure on "Game of Thrones," Craven says her convictions and commitment to those she cares about make her the most admirable leader on the show: "Sansa was dealt a rough deck at the beginning, but she cares, she believes and she's stepped into leadership."
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