Lessons From a Courageous 16 Year Old Girl Who Led an Army

Joan of Arc S Stock




The girl ran her trembling hands over her pant legs, smoothing non-existent wrinkles in an attempt to calm her heightening nerves that were threatening to squeeze the air from her lungs.  It had taken a great deal of petitioning to be granted an audience with Charles VII, the Dauphine, heir to the French Throne and now, she had to convince him that she was the one to lead his army to victory against the English.


Henry VI’s men had now captured a great deal of northern France and currently lay siege to the town of Orleans, a town of strategic importance.


In the words of one modern historian,


“On the fate of Orléans hung that of the entire kingdom.”


The girl told him that she had had a vision and God told her to lead the French army and reclaim Orleans.


A pretty bold claim for a girl of only 16 years.


She also made the prediction that there would be a military reversal at the Battle of Rouvray, near Orleans.


Her prediction came true a few days later.


Needless to say, she made quite an impression on Charles and her urgent request to travel with the army and be given armour and weapons was granted.


It’s been surmised that after years of humiliating defeats, the credibility of French leadership was at an all-time low – every known strategy had been tried up to this point, so what harm was there in listening to an illiterate farm girl who claimed that the voice of God was instructing her to take command of the nation’s army??!


Despite giving this girl leadership of his army, he did like a good Dauphine should do, and conduct a thorough background check. Upon her arrival, the young girl was quickly turning the battle into a religious war, so her authenticity and integrity had to be proven beyond a doubt.  To cut a long story short, it was, and the girl was instrumental in the re-capture of Orleans, garnering her further support and loyalty within the ranks of French government, the army and the church. Not bad for a 16-year-old farm girl!!


The French, under the leadership of this girl, went on to win many successive battles, claiming back much land, including the town of Reims, a town deep in the heart of English occupied territory.  When they took this town, the girl convinced Charles to be finally crowned as King.  And on 17 July 1429, Charles VII’s coronation took place.  On 29 December of that year, the girl and her family were ennobled by Charles VII as a reward for all her actions.


In the words of Stephen Richey,

“She turned what had been a dry dynastic squabble that left the common people unmoved, except for their own suffering, into a passionately popular war of national liberation.”


Unfortunately, a few months later in an ensuing battle, the girl was pulled off her horse by an archer and was captured.  After a grossly unfair trial conducted by the English, she was sentenced to death.


Shortly thereafter, she was burnt alive at the stake……


This girl, known throughout history as Joan of Arc, was posthumously exonerated of all charges in a re-trial, and remains forever in the hearts of the French and people around the world. Her achievements leave most of us just shaking our heads in amazement and a little disbelief!  She was an incredible leader from whom we can learn much from.


Great leaders inspire us to achieve things we previously thought we couldn’t or didn’t even see as an option. They take us into new territory, pushing us out of our comfort zones.  Joan was an incredible source of inspiration for her people – she led them to sell out to the vision to regain their freedom from the British and do whatever it takes to achieve it – including trusting a 16-year-old girl with the leadership of the army!  (I wish I could have been in the room when she met with Charles VII the first time!). She was never swayed from her task by the initial disbelief of many – she kept true to the vision God had given her and inspired thousands to rally to her banner and do whatever it took to win.  She put it all on the line as the leader – there were many times she was carried off the battle field with injuries as she led her army in battle.


What do you need to be more inspirational about?

Are you prepared to do whatever it (legally) takes to achieve it?

Are your team?

Have you all sold out to the Vision?


When striving to achieve your vision, it’s also critical that you always remain optimistic, focussed on the future and seeing what’s possible, no matter what’s going on, including a battle literally raging around you, or when you’ve experienced a major setback to achieving the vision.  Your team is relying on you to lead them through and show them the way forward.  This skill is essential for you to create and maintain momentum.


Just because you have momentum today doesn’t mean you’ll have momentum tomorrow – momentum is fragile and precious and requires effective and optimistic leadership to build and maintain it.  Without momentum, you won’t progress.  You’ll be stuck, treading water.


What’s your vision?

What do you need to be more optimistic about?

Are you focussed on the future or are you focussed on past mistakes?

What could you do to create more momentum in your team?



You need extreme focus to achieve the vision.  You must not let yourself get distracted from the things you need to accomplish to achieve your vision.  Don’t let others dictate your actions – make your plans with your team and keep each other accountable to achieve them.  Plan each day ensuring you’re focussing on the things that will help achieve the vision, and don’t ‘deviate from it.


Increase your focus and you will increase your growth.


What needs greater focus right now?

What is distracting you?



Just like the vision that drove Joan, your Vision will not be achieved without loyalty.  Effective leaders understand every day that you have to earn and re earn it daily.  Just because you have loyalty today, doesn’t mean you’ll have loyalty tomorrow.

You can‘t demand loyalty, you demonstrate it and Joan did this in spades.  In fact, she was captured when she offered to stay behind to help the rear guard, when the rest of the army had retreated.  And, when she was captured, the French launched 3 rescue attempts and many political manoeuvres to try and free her all the while threatening Joan’s capture would be revenged on all who took part. It doesn’t get more loyal than that.


How would you describe the loyalty in your team?

What must you do to demonstrate greater loyalty to the team you lead?



For the team to rally with you as the leader, your team must know what you stand for – the absolutes in your life.  The non-negotiables. Where you draw the line in the sand.


What do you stand for?

What is unacceptable to you?


Having absolutes as the leader is critical for building trust and loyalty with your team.  When your team knows with certainty how you as the leader will respond to any given situation, it builds trust.  For instance, when they know you’ll back them even when they mess up and it comes as a personal cost to you to do so, that builds trust.  Or if they know you wouldn’t screw someone over just to get ahead, that builds trust.  And it also sets a good example for them to duplicate. Your team needs to know that your word is your word, 100% of the time.


Trust takes a lifetime to build but only a moment to tear down.


Your team will not sell out to the vision and follow you if there is not 100% trust in you as the leader and your integrity.  No trust, no influence. No achieving the vision.



Who trusts you?

Who doesn’t trust you?

Who is following you?

Who is not following you?

What do you need to have greater integrity about?


To grow trust, transparency as the leader is also vital.  Joan of Arc would have been under constant scrutiny in her position and she attracted many enemies (particularly among the British) who were always trying to smear her name and claimed she was working for the Devil – a highly inflammatory charge in that era.  Can you imagine what would have happened to Joan’s cause if her actions left any doubt in the mind of her people?


An example a little closer to home occurred just this week – I was having a coffee with a team leader in a large corporation. She was explaining how she’d recently put herself forward for a promotion at work and knew she was the most qualified candidate. However, she didn’t get the job.  Another team leader did.  She found out quickly through the grapevine that it was due to another team leader going on Maternity Leave and they needed my friend to cover her team too, otherwise they’d have two large teams without leaders for 12 months. Not good for business and my friend understood this and said she would have made the same decision.


But what she found incredibly disappointing was that Upper Management didn’t explain this; and they weren’t transparent. All they’ve been doing is, in her words were,


“Annoyingly sucking up to me so I stay. They didn’t give me the respect as a Team Leader and explain the truth behind the decision. They didn’t trust me to understand or agree… “   


Hhhhmm, much damage done there by a lack of transparency and trust.


What do you need to be more transparent about?

Do you trust your key people enough to share critical information about the business and your decisions?



I’ll conclude my blog here today.  Great leaders are readers so I thank you for taking the time out to read this.


I trust the story of Joan of Arc, the 16-year-old, illiterate farm girl who led her nation successfully against the British, has inspired, stimulated and agitated you to lead more effectively to achieve your vision.


We don’t have to be big in stature or social standing to be successful, but rather, we as leaders need to possess some important traits and behaviours as I’ve discussed today and also in my last article, A Game Changer that Fuels Your Success.


The road to success is never easy, so I trust we can encourage each other on our respective paths.


Take care.




I talk further about achieving your vision in my book, “The Dream Is Everything”.
If you’d like to receive a FREE e-copy, (RRP $24.95), click here.









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