From a naive and annoyingly dreamy ‘little bird’, Sansa Stark has grown into a super strong and confident leader within the space of eight seasons. The attention may be centred on Cersei, Jon, and Daenerys at the moment, but some fans argue that Sansa has plenty of traits that make her a good contender for the Iron Throne. Columbia Business School professor and author Bruce Craven agrees.
Craven has penned a book named ‘Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones‘, and recently spoke to CNBC on the different facets of leadership present in the world of Game of Thrones. According to him, Sansa is the character with the best leadership qualities among all the key players left in the Game.
The key to this growth, in Craven’s opinion, is her ability to adapt and survive in the face of unimaginable adversity. Craven says, “She managed to learn from very difficult, treacherous people and, at the same time, stay true to her values about protecting her family.”
This is almost an echo of what Tyrion Lannister says to Sansa in Season 8 Episode 1 – “Many underestimated you. Most of them are dead now.”
And some horror she has endured! Sansa was held captive in the Red Keep, she was manipulated and misled by Littlefinger for a long time, and then was forced to marry the sadistic Ramsay Bolton who tormented and abused her. Sansa rose like a phoenix from those circumstances even as she learnt from them. She may hate Cersei and Littlefinger but if anybody can be said to have inherited their political acumen that is Sansa.
But underneath all this, she has continued to follow the just and pro-people ruling style of her father – Ned Stark. Jon Snow has been compared many times with the Stark patriarch. But in Craven’s words, Sansa exemplifies his values better even while improving upon them with her newfound learning – “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.” No wonder she is the only one worrying about food store, winter-ready armours, and whether the troops are ready for battle or not in the whole show.
This is perhaps the reason Sansa managed to hold her ground against the imperious power of Daenerys Targaryen where even seasoned and battle-savvy men like Tyrion and Jon failed. Their negotiation scene in Season 8 Episode 2 remains one of the best in series, precisely because Sansa matched the power posturing of Daenerys blow by blow.
But does this ensure Sansa will ascend the Iron Throne in the end? There are hints aplenty, but this is Game of Thrones after all. Our best bet, still, is to wait for the show to end.