‘You Can Kill A Man But Not His Ideas’ – Che Guevara – Strategy With RS

Fidel Castro, arguably one of the influential leaders of 20th century was laid to rest with full state honour. But this post is not about him!

It is about his compatriot in arm – Che Guevara on how he faced death!

Legend has it that he was captured alive in the jungles of Bolivia. The security forces tied his feet and arms to restrain him and threw him on the floor of the classroom of a local school, where he was kept in captivity, awaiting instructions from their bosses for the next step!

Some time later, a person unlocked the door, walked into the classroom and posed an ominous question to Che Guevara – Do you have any wishes to fulfil?’

Yes, nodded Che Guevara, I want to meet the principal of this school.

The person was amazed at his request, but he was duty bound to carry out his wish.

The principal of the school, a middle-aged lady was contacted and requested to present herself in school to meet him. She, for obvious reasons, was paralysed with fear. What mistake have I done that the world’s most feared guerrilla leader wishes to meet me?

Having no option, she stepped into the classroom where Che Guevara lay helplessly on the floor!

Che Guevara, ever the professional posed a question to make sure he was speaking to the right person

‘Are you the principal of this school?’ he asked

Fear had paralysed her and words would not escape her lips. She could only nod her head as if to say yes!

Next, Che Guevara, commanded the principle to look at the blackboard on which sentences were written.

‘Read the sentences’ he commanded her, ‘do you see the grammatical errors made by the teacher who is teaching here. If the teacher is not proficient in grammar then how can he teach the children ….’

Che Guevara continued berating the principal, who could only nod her head as if tacitly agreeing with him.

When the tirade ended, the principal was escorted out of the classroom only after a promise had been extracted from her that she will ensure that such incompetent teachers are never put in front of children.

Some other people, who interacted with Che Guevara in his final moments, posed the million dollar question to him, ‘Are you thinking about your immortality?’

Not about me, but about the immortality of the revolution, he replied!

Two days later the inevitable order was issued to eliminate Che Guevara.

A sergeant in the Bolivian Army, named Mario Teran, volunteered to carry out this dastardly act.

Che Guevara, lying helplessly on his back, heard the approaching footsteps and knew his end was near. The door opened and Mario walked in.

Che looked straight into the eyes of Mario and said scornfully, ‘Coward, I know you are here to kill me – shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man … but not his ideas…’

Stunned by these words, Mario hesitated for a moment and then opened fire on a helpless Che Guevara. As 9 bullets pierced his fragile and battle weary body, he passed onto eternity and into our collective memory!

So much so that even 50 years later Che Guevara idea continues to inspire the world!

Bottom Line: 1. Invest in an idea … it will outlive humans and continue to inspire generations.

2. A true professional, even when death stares at him, will always put professional interest ahead of his own creature comfort. Has any person in this century done it? Steve Jobs kept the interest of Apple ahead of his own, even when death was knocking at his door!

3. Attempt to keep other peoples’ interest ahead of your own. It is difficult, but worth aiming for! Does anyone do this in today’s time? Of course, our mothers do it, all the time!




About the Author:


In this series, Rajesh Srivastava, Business Strategist and Visiting Faculty at IIM Indore gives you a regular dose of strategy case studies to help you think and keep you one step ahead as a professional as compared to your peers. Rajesh is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and IIT Kanpur and has over 2 decades of experience in the FMCG industry. All previous Strategy with RS posts can be found here.