[April 3, 2019] I was listening to a podcast the other day with Professor Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto. By his explanation, the talk was an exploration of the origins of religious thinking. Thinking is, of course, the one thing leaders must do and do better than others. He mentioned the story of St. George and the slaying of the dragon as the oldest story of humankind. Peterson piqued my interest in the story.
In some form or another, everyone has heard of St. George and how he managed to slay the dragon. You can read about how the story manifested across all cultures and time; since at least the 4th Century (written records are rare before this time).1 The story is important for those of us who study leadership because it gives insight into those attributes that define great leadership; courage, selflessness, steadfastness, and trust, to name a few.
Getting results is another trait that is the link between this ancient story and leadership. But what I find fascinating is the idea of sacrifice that is at the heart of the story. The dragon held the villagers at the threat of total annihilation, forestalled only by the villagers promise of animal and then human sacrifices.
The concept of sacrifice; the destruction of things valuable today for a better future is the story of leadership. Leaders strive for the trust and confidence of others because they must ask for a ‘sacrifice’ of valuable things (time, money, work, etc.) for a better future.
Our values are intimately tied to this story. We value those traits that made it possible, in the story, for St. George to slay the dragon. It should come as no surprise that leaders often speak of values and their importance in daily life. Leaders are prophets of a sort; gifted with more than ordinary moral insights into what matters most. At least, that is an assumption that is being tested and is part of the fundamental make-up of great leadership.