Leadership: St. George and the Dragon

By | April 3, 2019

[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.

I found the podcast at Stitcher. You can hear it by going to this link here. I’ll warn you that he speaks for two hours, but it is worth listening to in its entirety, including the Q&A at the end.

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

30 thoughts on “Leadership: St. George and the Dragon

    1. Tracey Brockman

      True but the story of a soldier killing an evil that has a village hostage has been passed down by word of mouth for millenia before the written word.

      Reply
  1. Joe the Aussie

    This was one of my favorite stories as a child. Thanks. Cheers, everyone!

    Reply
  2. Kenny Foster

    I’m sitting here in my easy chair with my loyal dog at my feet. Drinking my morning coffee, I read this article and just wanted to let you know, I appreciate the lessons from this old story.

    Reply
  3. Greg Heyman

    This is one of your better, more informative articles. Gen. Satterfield, please keep these types of blog posts coming.

    Reply
    1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      I couldn’t have said it better. I’ve been reading this blog now for years and it never disappoints.

      Reply
  4. Georgie M.

    The myth of St George and the Dragon is embedded in the history of not only England but also many other parts of the world. In the most recorded version of the story, an evil dragon demands a sheep from a kingdom every day to feed. Once all the sheep have been killed, the dragon demands the sacrifice of a child every day, drawn by lot from all the households of the kingdom. One day, the princess is chosen to be the victim. By chance, St George arrives and bravely subdues the dragon before killing it and saving the kingdom from this evil. In many versions of the story, he also falls in love with, and marries, the princess.

    Reply
      1. JT Patterson

        There will always be nutjob, wacko people who complain and whine about every little thing. They are mentally weak and can be safely ignored.

        Reply
        1. José Luis Rodriguez

          I’m not so sure about that. But I do know that it is encumbant upon every leader to ensure the moral outcome. These stories like this one, are very helpful.

          Reply
      2. Eric Coda

        But our education system produces more and more of these ‘snowflakes’ everyday.

        Reply
  5. Andrew Dooley

    St George was a Christian Martyr. He was tortured and imprisoned in protest at Rome’s persecution of Christians and then probably beheaded at Lydda in Palestine in the 3rd Century AD, on the orders of Dicoletian, the Roman Emperor. He is celebrated throughout the Christian world as an early Martyr.

    Reply
    1. Max Foster

      Correct, but the idea of the story as Gen. Satterfield notes, goes back much further. Scholars have noted the similarity in such ancient stories. Most of the posts here today from regular readers comes from what we know in England, not from its origins.

      Reply
    2. Jerome Smith

      This is the updated version. Older versions don’t have a “dragon” or evil as part of the main story but some enemy. Thanks for the summary.

      Reply
  6. Gil Johnson

    Here in England, we all know that St George is our Patron Saint. The Flag of St George (the red cross on a white background) is the flag of England and his story is embedded in our national psyche.

    Reply
  7. Willie Shrumburger

    “SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON: THE ORIGINS OF THE LEGEND”
    https://www.foliamagazine.it/saint-george-dragon/
    Nice article that summarizes what scholars believe to be the origins of the story. The focus in this article is 3rd century onward where we know more about it. However, the story certainly dates back much further.

    Reply
    1. Drew Dill

      Thanks Willie. I read the article at your link; very informative.

      Reply
  8. Wesley Brown

    The dragon was commonly used to represent the Devil.

    Reply
    1. Ronny Fisher

      As a symbol of evil and paganism, the dragon appears frequently in the stories about medieval saints

      Reply
  9. Martin Shiell

    There are many versions of story of St George slaying the dragon, but most agree on the following:
    A town was terrorised by a dragon.
    A young princess was offered to the dragon
    When George heard about this he rode into the village
    George slayed the dragon and rescued the princess

    Reply
    1. Nick Lighthouse

      I agree although I’m not sure it was called “St George” in the pre-Christian era.

      Reply
    2. Shawn C. Stolarz

      Nick. Correct and obviously not. Saints were not existing in the pre-Christ era. They may have been called something else however. Very important story. Tells a lot about us as humans.

      Reply
  10. Albert Ayer

    I had no idea that the story of St. George was the oldest story known to mankind.

    Reply

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