Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think pulling a sword out of a stone or a lake might result in better leadership than we see in our elected leaders these days. In honor of the U.S. Election Day, here are 10 characters I think would make excellent leaders. Some are already leaders in their own stories; others would make very good ones. In no particular order:
1. King Arthur. Need I say more? A king who practically personifies wisdom, compassion, justice, mercy, and honor… and chose to emphasize the equality of his knights by seating them at a round table, so none could claim precedence or rank over the others. And we’ve been dreaming of lost Camelot ever since. True, his insight failed him when it came to his son and/or nephew Mordred, but we’re often blind to the faults of those closest to us. (Mary Stewart’s Arthurian cycle, Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, and a gazillion other versions of the myths.)
2. Keladry of Mindalan. Kel is a natural leader, not because she seeks leadership for the sake of power or glory, but because others turn to her, and she does what must be done. She’s smart, she excels at strategy, she’s a skilled, brave and highly-trained knight. Most of all, she embodies true chivalry, always standing up for and protecting those smaller and weaker than herself regardless of the cost. Put her in command of a squad, a company, or a refugee camp, and she will spend her last breath to defend them, then weep for the dead in private. Compassion and honor are at the root of her whole being. While she would hate palace (or Washington) politics, Kel is the sort of leader every community, state, and nation needs. (The Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce)
3. Aragorn. Initially reluctant to claim his rightful throne, Aragorn is intelligent, deeply honorable, wise, patient, and both decisive and implacable when he needs to be — all valuable traits in a leader. He inspires loyalty and devotion in those who follow him, not through glib speeches but by his integrity and courage. While we mainly see him leading groups of various sizes in dangerous situations, and as a warrior serving others, Tolkien makes clear that once Aragorn comes to rule in Gondor, he does so wisely and well, and is much loved by his people. (J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy)
4. Queen Selenay of Valdemar. She’s intelligent, strong, capable, and well able to deal with her more obstreperous Councilors. She never forgets that she serves the people of Valdemar, not the other way around. And while she’s competent on and off the battlefield, she knows how to delegate and when to listen to her advisors… and when to make her own decisions. (multiple books in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series)
5. Leo Hathaway, Viscount Ramsey. Leo hides his compassion and sense of responsibility behind a worldly and charmingly cynical facade — and hides them well. But once he heals from the emotional trauma he’s suffering in Mine Till Midnight, those traits become more evident, though he still maintains the careless mask. He’s perceptive, smart, and exceedingly skilled at wielding his charm, and would make a formidable politician if he chose to do so: one with principles, but also the pragmatism and intelligence to know how and when to compromise, when to pour on the charm, when to give a little to gain more — in short, how to play the political game for the greater good. (The Hathaways historical romance series by Lisa Kleypas)
6. Kate Sutton. This former lady-in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth (the Tudor one) is sometimes impetuous and has a quick wit and a ready, even sarcastic tongue. But she’s also intelligent, strong-willed, pragmatic, and determined to the point of stubbornness — characteristics that, when tempered with judgement, can be very useful in a leader…or in a young woman trying to save her young man from a ritual sacrifice (think Tam Lin.) (The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope)
7. Masterharper Robinton. The Masterharper leads through his skills as a diplomat and bard (or Harper, in the Perniverse.) His position as Masterharper puts him in charge of all Harpers and the Harper Hall — and Harpers are much, much more than merely musicians. They educate the young, remind those in power of their duty toward those below them, mediate disputes, keep Pern’s history both oral and written, maintain historic traditions and advocate for needed social change. While technically equal to the highest in the land (the feudal Lord Holders and the Weyrleaders, the heads of Pern’s dragonrider communities), Robinton is respected by almost everyone because of his reputation for insight, wisdom, humor, and fair dealing. He is a golden-tongued statesman rather than a politician, and his eventual death is almost universally mourned.
8. Galadriel. Wise and insightful even beyond most of her elven kin, Galadriel has the strength to refuse the One Ring when it is offered to her. It’s clear that although technically her husband Celeborn is co-ruler, Galadriel is the true power among the elves of Lothlorien and beyond. Her age (thousands of years old) gives her experience no human can hope to match, and an ability to step back and see the big picture… but she isn’t uncaring of the little, shorter-lived folk, as an elf could so easily become. Best of all, she’s obviously incorruptible, which should be a requirement for all leaders (and fits most of the characters on this list, come to think of it.)
9. Several of Dick Francis’s main characters, but particularly Kit Fielding. Blessed with a strong sense of justice, protective of those he cares for, and willing to go toe-to-toe with dangerous men no matter how politically or financially powerful they are, if his cause is right, Kit probably wouldn’t choose to be a leader, but he is one by nature. He’s not foolhardy, just smart and courageous and tenacious. (There’s that characteristic again. It’s a bad one if someone is stubborn about the wrong things, but if they’ve got good judgement and clear vision, and don’t suffer from an excess of pride, it can be a very helpful trait.) (Break In and Bolt by Dick Francis)
10. Harimad-sol (aka Harry or Angharad) Like Kel, Hari doesn’t seek leadership; it finds her. She has the charisma that draws people to her, and since she’s well aware of her lack of training and experience, she doesn’t hesitate to seek advice. But she’s also willing to risk everything, even mutiny (or is it treason?), to do what must be done when her king stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that she may be right. She tries, in fact, to do it all on her own, but ends up gathering a small army more-or-less against her will. And she possesses both insight — she turns out not only to be right, but very foresightful indeed — and humility, as well as a true leader’s sense of care, responsibility, and loyalty toward those who follow her. It’s not as clear what kind of leader she will be in peacetime, but I think, in the long run, she’ll be a good one.
ETA: I left out Hermione Granger, and have been kicking myself ever since. She’s smart, she’s brave, she has a strong sense of right and justice, and like Kel, she fights for the oppressed and stands up to bullies… and against the most feared dark wizard in the world. Definitely good leader material!