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Charisma takes you only so far

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The insurgent, adventurer and patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi unified Italy into a democratic republic in 1861.

Garibaldi was so charismatic that his “red shirts,” as his troops were known, followed him anywhere, often to their deaths.

Most of us aren’t loaded with charisma, but we can borrow three useful notions from Garibaldi:
  1. He produced. With a ragged brigade of irregulars headed to Rome in 1849, he turned back a vastly superior French force sent to retrieve the city for the pope. Even though Garibaldi couldn’t hold out for long, he proved that Italy didn’t need to stay divided forever.

  2. He inspired. While other revolutionaries sneaked out of Rome on fake passports, Garibaldi refused passage on a U.S. naval ship and instead led 4,000 insurgents into the hills to continue the struggle.

    His honesty itself inspired. He promised his men only “heat and thirst by day, cold and hunger by night … exhausting vigils, extreme marches and fighting at every step.”

  3. He compromised. No way could Garibaldi win everything he wanted, which included the emancipation of women, free education for all, free thinking, an end to war and the death penalty. But in the end, he pulled off an unlikely compromise to unite Italy.
“A tree is judged by the quality of the fruit it bears,” he wrote, “and individuals are judged by the benefits they can bestow on their fellow human beings.”

— Adapted from “The Insurgent,” Tim Parks, The New Yorker.

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