A Leader is Impacts History: Applying 100 Leaders in World History in the Classroom

 Post by Lynne O’Hara, NHD Director of Programs

The 100 Leaders in World History program, sponsored by Kenneth E. Behring, is designed to help students think about the idea of leadership. A key piece of a democratic society is the need to evaluate and select leaders at the local, state, and national level. We hope that this study of historical leaders will help students evaluate the leaders of the past and construct intelligent, informed opinions about the leaders of the present.

Each day this week we are posting to this blog about one of the five criteria that our selection panel used to determine the 100 Leaders in World History. The five criteria are:

  • Articulates a vision,
  • Motivates others,
  • Makes effective decisions,
  • Willing to confront tough issues, and
  • Impacts history.

Today we are discussing how a leader impacts history.

Impacts History


Joan of Arc [Source: Neurdein & Paris (photographers), n.d., Wellcome Library, London]

Leaders need to leave a legacy in which they impact history.  Some leaders write their own histories, and knew that they would be remembered. George Washington told his wife Martha to burn their personal correspondence so that it would not become part of the historical record.  Other leaders had a bigger impact after their death – consider the execution of Joan of Arc or the assassinations of Benazir Bhutto or Abraham Lincoln.

Sometimes legacies are unintended.  Charles Darwin was a biologist whose scientific theories were used to justify a century of expansion, colonialism, and subjugation.  Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in China opening up the Chinese economy and led to stronger ties with Western nations.

So what leader will you choose to study?  What direction will you take?  We hope that the 100 Leaders in World History website will be a catalyst for classroom discussion, help students and teachers brainstorm ideas, and expose students to the wider world of historical leaders.


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