3 Things About Real Leaders You Don’t See in Movies and On TV

There is no shortage of movies and TV shows about leaders, whether they’re of the corporate variety, the athletic variety, the political variety, and of course the superhero and superheroine variety.

Leadership

However, one thing that emerging leaders discover to their surprise — and sometimes, to their shock — is that the real world of day-to-day leadership isn’t one epic and momentous event after another. There’s no captivating soundtrack. No team of editors to make sure that the scene is riveting. No directors to yell “CUT” when even the slightest detail is missed. Heck, there isn’t even free pizza. 

Instead, real leaders — which are the kind that don’t just reach lofty leadership positions, but stay in them for decades like Steve Jobs — are characterized and defined by three unexpected traits:

They work extremely hard.

Many people dream of becoming a leader because they want to enjoy the privileges — like box seats at the Super Bowl and flitting around on a private jet. Granted, these are enjoyable perks. But real leaders aren’t motivated by the fruits of leadership: they are motivated by an unyielding, if not obsessive work ethic. That means when other people — including subordinates — take time off and go on vacation, they’re grinding it out late at night on the phone or in front of their computer. They’re typically the first people to start work in the morning (they always commence their workday from home before commuting to work), and they pull all-nighters more often than college students anxiously cramming for exams.

They never — ever — stop learning.

If you’re hoping to become a leader one day so that you can finally take your foot off the ongoing learning pedal, then think again. Real leaders don’t care about what they know: they care about what they still need to learn in order to drive their organization forward. It’s similar to becoming a musician. When you’re young (or sometimes when you aren’t), you start by taking piano lessons or violin lessons. But regardless of how proficient you become and how many awards you win, there’s always more to learn. The moment you stop learning, you start regressing. There is no standing still.

They see leadership as a calling, not an ambition.

This is the most subtle of all leadership traits, but it’s also the most important. If you take truly great leaders from any walk of life aside, and if they’re willing to be truly open and transparent, they’ll tell you that they don’t actually want to be a leader. That’s not to say that they don’t like or even love their jobs — because they usually do. Rather, it means that they don’t crave leadership roles to inflate their ego. Instead, take the reigns of leadership because it’s their calling. They feel a sense of responsibility to provide leadership; not for their personal benefit, but because, well, just like superheroes and superheroines: if they don’t lean forward and keep the wheel turning, who will? Indeed, inside every authentic leader is someone who would actually love to stop being a leader. It’s a paradox that is impossible to articulate but is absolutely real.

The Bottom Line The world will always need more great leaders. If leadership is part of your present or future, and provided that you always work hard, always keep learning, and always remain humble, then you won’t just succeed. You’ll amaze and inspire.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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