Here’s a recent example. Over the holidays, you probably noticed the exits of two very different leaders from the world stage: Kim Jong-il and Vaclav Havel. Both had huge followings. But that’s where the similarities ended.
- One took the mantle of leadership from his dictatorial family. The other assumed leadership from the lowly position of a dissident.
- One maintained power through brute force and fear. The other was given authority precisely because he stood up to brute force and fear but refused to use it even in revenge.
- One believed in centralization and subjugation. The other advocated for self-determination and local freedom.
- One feared the possibility of expulsion from his country enough that he reportedly hoarded billions in foreign bank accounts in case he had to bail out. The other certainly could have moved to a more comfortable living situation but decided to live out his days close to the people he had served even though he no longer had formal authority.
- One’s death was marked by large, orchestrated shows of grief. The other’s death prompted the mixture of grief and criticism only possible in the kind of free society he helped create.
We know our legacy after we’ve gone. But we’re creating it today. Make it a good one.