Have you seen the National Geographic documentary on North Korea? My dad is a huge history buff and while at their house a few weeks ago, I sat and watched it with him. The whole documentary was intriguing to me, but the section that stuck out the most was a portion where they addressed President Kim Jong-il’s, imprisonment of two American Journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Now, I definitely have my opinions on what lead to their capture but what fascinated me most was the process Lisa Ling the sister of Laura Ling, and negotiators went through to get them released. It made me think not just about politics and culture, but leadership styles, human behavior and connections.
According to journalist Lisa Ling, she was encouraged by negotiators to keep the news of her sister’s imprisonment out of the media. They suggested this in attempts to keep from offending the North Korean government. As trade negotiations continued, they later discovered that what North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wanted in return for the women, was beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. He didn't want the obvious weapons, favors, power or technology. He wanted to meet in person, former American President Bill Clinton. He expressed that Clinton, was the first leader global leader to reach out and send his condolences after the passing of his father Kim il-Sung. This act of compassion, left a lasting impression on him and he had always wanted to meet him in person. On August 5th, 2009, a day after former President Clinton’s visit to North Korea, both Euna Lee and Laura Ling were pardoned from their 12 year sentence.
As I learned more and more about this story, it reminds me of leadership expert John Maxwell’s. “Law of Connection: A leader must first touch a heart, before asking for a hand” (Maxwell, 1). President Clinton could have never known in 1994, that his act of compassion could have resulted in a response such as this 15 years later. Clinton put his political opinions and agendas asides and acted in a manner that not just helped him build influence and buy-in during his Presidency, but also many years down the road.
It is leadership acts like these, that separate good leaders, from great leaders. They connect with people and leave an impression, not just for the moment but years to come. Though President Clinton was far from perfect, it seems he did do some things right that helped others down the road. My challenge for you this week is to focus on connecting with others this week. Choose one person in your life this week and look for an opportunity to connect with them and create a positive life long memory.
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