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History is filled with some pretty gruesome characters, who have inflicted a great deal of pain and misery on the world. Many times, people get seduced by power, and as soon as they get hold of power, they never want to let it go. In order to hold on to it, they’ll stop at nothing. On the other end of the spectrum, there are most people – folks who don’t want ever increasing power, and would be content to live their own lives, and go about their own business.
There are a small sliver of folks, however, who can lead, and lead quite well, but will only lead when absolutely forced to, and only when circumstances require that they lead. The historical figures who exemplify this, unfortunately, are relatively limited.
There are only a few in history who seem to have had this trait. Cinncinatus is the first that comes to mind; in “modern” times George Washington is seen as the “Cinncinatus of the West.” But the list after that is relatively short. If you asked for a list of dictators, despots, and petty tyrants, you’d probably have no problem in coming up with a dozen.
It would be fantastic if we could make a list of common traits of these great leaders, who abdicate power as soon as they are done, but the list of folks to choose from is seemingly too short. Narrowing down what makes these almost supernaturally disciplined figures arise, and what upbringing forged them is an interesting question.
We might welcome another Cinncinnatus, to help us in these crazy times. But they are few and far between, it seems.
- What makes these figures have the capability to lead, and the capability of giving up power so readily? Is this a genetic fluke, or something that can be taught at an early age?
- Would anyone from the U.S. (or other democratically controlled, civilian led) military have this discipline?
- Who would you nominate as a modern day Cinncinatus; someone who achieves power for a short time then gives it up when the job is done?
- How about from the science fiction or fantasy worlds? Jean-Luc Picard? Those who took the One Ring and cast it into the fires of Mount Doom?
- Is the habit of power harder to kick than heroin?