Cordelia Lassiviren, the woman who would one day be the Amyrlin Seat, was born the daughter of a candlemaker in Murandy. She was always a bright child, inquisitive and surprisingly precocious. She learned to read and write by the age of 4, and to assist in the family business by the age of 9. At 17, when she was keeping the books for her father's shop, she was discovered by an Aes Sedai as possessing the ability to Channel, and taken to Tar Valon. Her parents were reluctant to let her go, but Cordelia herself was very grave and self-possessed about the affair. She saw no point in fighting the inevitable.
She was a swift and able learner at the Tower, spending 4 years as a Novice and 5 as an Accepted. She passed the Raising for Aes Sedai with astonishing ease, coming through it nearly unscathed. She chose the White, which surprised almost no one.
She had quick wits, but only middling strength in the Power, and no extraordinary Talents. Most were prepared for her to settle into being a capable if unremarkable Aes Sedai, perhaps rising to Sit for the White in time.
Few expected what became of her, herself included.
Thirteen years after her taking the shawl, Sierin Vayu died suddenly, breaking her neck in a fall from a horse. Sierin had sat in the Amrylin Seat scarcely a year, and the Hall was shocked by her death. Her Raising had been a fairly bitter battle in the Hall, and none of them wanted a repeat of it. But most of the ready candidates, with age and power to distinguish them, were dead (or in the case of Cadsuane Melaidhrin, vanished). Ferane Neheran, Sitter for the White, added yet another surprise by nominating Cordelia.
While at first it caused an uproar (she was incredibly young, only 39, and seemed unsuited for the role), but in the discussion most of the Ajahs came to similar conclusions...with a fairly young and inexperienced Amyrlin on the Seat, the Hall would have more of a hand in guiding her (and thus, the affairs of the Tower). All knew the dangers of a weak Amyrlin, but all knew the difficulty of a strong-willed Amyrlin as well (especially coming on the heels of Sierin, very difficult to work with). When the vote was called, there was yet another surprise: Cordelia was affirmed, unanimously.
Cordelia herself, of course, did not feel ready for this responsibility...but she was no fool, and saw right through the Hall's easy words about 'providing her with advice and direction'. She had read an astonishing amount of the Tower Library already, and though she did not have access to the secret histories, she knew what happened to Amyrlins who let the Hall 'advise' them too often. Logic had ruled her life since she had become a White, and logic now directed her actions.
She was the Amyrlin Seat.
The Amyrlin was the leader of the Aes Sedai.
Without leadership, direction, strength and unity, the Tower would be ruled by infighting, bickering, and often less than ideal compromise.
Conclusion: She must become the leader that was needed, by whatever means she had, despite whatever obstacles might be placed in her path.
She started by choosing as her Keeper of Chronicles a woman who she had been close with as a Novice...while they had grown apart in later years, she still trusted her strongly. But as her first year went on, she found the Hall cumbersome and the customs, laws, and traditions of the Tower a constant shackle around her wrists. She knew there must be a more efficient way, a way to cut through the bureaucracy and accomplish what needed to be done. And she found one. It was against Tower Law...but sometimes one must bend the rules in order to preserve that which formed the rules in the first place.
She awakened her Keeper that night by Shielding her in her rooms, and extracted a promise--bound by the First Oath--to keep all of her secrets. Then, with her Keeper's aid, she chose her first recruit in what would be a tool to do the Tower's work...her work, but for the good of the White Tower. A dozen sets of hands cannot direct a knife...it must cut where it was needed, and only one hand could guide it. That hand must be hers. And the tool must therefore be one that no one else could seize. Likewise, a knife is useless if it is dull, or tied in the scabbard. Her tool must therefore be sharp and honed, and must be unbound by needless restrictions.
When she was finished, she would have what she required...and let history judge whether the ends justified the means.