Joan of Arc's public career lasted only for two years but her history has come down through the ages, so that each year, her courage is praised on May 1st. Why is this sixteen-year-old girl engraved in our memory in such an unforgettable way? Answering to this question amounts to go over her hectic and terrific life that made her, according to Mark Twain, “easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced”.
Her childhood in the context of warfare
Joan of Arc was born on January 6th, 1412, at Domrémy, a village in the Meuse valley, in North-eastern France at the boarder of Champagne and Lorraine. (Zupko 1997) Her parents, Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée, were farmers and owned several acres of land.
France was then caught up in a conflict with England, later called by historians the “Hundred Years' War”, that started in 1337 over claims by the English kings to the French throne and the lingering debates over Gascony, Aquitaine and Flanders. The territory was divided in several areas; Britain and its ally Burgundy ruled Northern and South-western France whereas the rest of the country still belonged to France. (Zupko 1997)
This war was to play an important role in Joan's life since it allowed her to carve out her leader status while fulfilling her “mission”: drive away invaders and help Charles VII to be crowned. (Zupko 1997)
[...] Setting a new strategy Carlzon was appointed CEO of three companies in a time span of ten years. In each case, the company was loosing market shares and money. Carlzon was expected to reverse the trend: the organization was to compete effectively and remain profitable. To do so, he followed several steps: he started by analyzing the market and the way the company was adjusting to it, mentioning that they “needed a clear picture of the outside world and [the company's] position within then he set a new goal; finally, he assessed the strengths the company would have to focus on in order to build a competitive advantage and he defined the core competence. [...]
[...] At first, those voices advised her to pray often and attend mass. (Tallon 1997) As a few years passed, Joan kept hearing voices but they started exhorting her to drive out the English, recover her homeland and help Charles VII, the Dauphin of France, to be crowned. (Zupko 1997) Joan was not at that point a leader. She was just a sixteen-year-old girl without any education. But these celestial voices she heard or thought she heard gave her something she did not have before: the feeling of having a special task to fulfil. [...]
[...] Fortunately, everyone does not use his set of competencies through a leadership attitude. A simple way to explain why some are followers would be to say that they can not be leaders. People who have developed a strong set of competencies can lead, not the others. But this point of view would only provide a partial answer since followers would be viewed as weak and passive. We believe that there are people who have the ability to become leaders and who become followers instead. [...]
[...] She even challenged the cautious strategy of Jean dolmans and led the assault on the enemy. Even though wounded, she remained in the field in the following combats. During the battle that lasted several days, Joan became a true leader and a true military chief. She exhibited for the first time amazing military skills: she could see long-term strategy as well as tactical goals; and if she was in favor of fighting rather than waiting on one day, she also knew when to remain still on the next day. [...]
[...] Thus, a leader appears to be successful and therefore good because he has some necessary characteristics, whether traits and skills. But what about unsuccessful leaders? Is it that they don't have the necessary skills or traits to fulfil their mission? In a way, the answer could be yes: the leader who fails might not have the set of competency for a certain leadership style that is adequate for the situation. Therefore, whether or not a leader is effective and successful would be linked with the context in which he evolves. [...]
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