Why do actors and entertainers become leaders more than the other way around and what can we learn from the pattern?
The other day I saw an ad for a TV show where 50 Cent was the executive producer. I don’t know what role he had—maybe they’re just using a star’s name to get viewers—but at least the title suggests he has some leadership role.
It made me think. A lot of actors, entertainers, and other performers move into leadership roles, but I rarely see it go the other way. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Same with athletes, come to think of it.
People on the right wing get mad at celebrities who take up a cause, but I mean full-on leadership, not just some support. Most don’t change roles, but when they do it seems to go in one direction more than the other.
Ronald Reagan: actor became President
Arnold Schwarzenegger: athlete became actor and then became Governor
Oprah Winfrey: talk show host / actress became businesswoman, influential in politics, called “arguably the world’s most powerful woman”
Al Franken: actor / comedian become Senator
Clint Eastwood: actor became Mayor
Muhammad Ali: athlete became influential leader against Vietnam war
Jesse Ventura: athlete? / entertainer became Governor
Kevin Johnson: athlete became Mayor
Bill Bradley: athlete turned Senator
Charles Barkley: athlete considered running for Governor
You might say Barkley didn’t end up running and shouldn’t count him. Even if you didn’t take him seriously, I bet you take him a lot more seriously than if any current Governor announced trying out for the NBA. One way works much more than the other. In any case, Barkley speaks openly about many race, class, and other issues and he has influence. He has a leadership role as a media figure.
Shirley Temple: actress / dancer became Ambassador and diplomat, also ran for several offices
Louis Armstrong: musician / singer became major force for desegregation
Sonny Bono: actor / singer turned Congressman
Jackie Robinson: athlete became statesman, businessman, and major American influence
Jesse Owens: athlete became statesman and major American influence
Here is an article with twelve athletes who got elected to political roles.
Another article with more examples.
Just found a Wikipedia article: List of actor-politicians. I haven’t reviewed it exhaustively, but they seem to start as actors and then move to politics.
Jerry Springer: politician became entertainer
Richard Branson: entrepreneur and business leader became competitor in sailing
I think Jerry Springer illustrates that successful performers move into leadership. Springer apparently left politics unsuccessfully. Richard Branson’s competitions cost a lot of money that blocks almost everyone in the world from competing.
What can we learn from this pattern
Jaded people might say actors, athletes, entertainers, and other performers just get celebrity and that people vote by name recognition. I’m not so jaded, nor do I agree with that view. Many of the people above get re-elected. Some become enduring icons whose influence endures for generations.
I think people who train and get experience expressing themselves and allowing themselves to be vulnerable in public develop skills to seem genuine and authentic, which people find attractive. The skills of performing seem fundamental to leading.
I draw from how we train actors, athletes, and performers in how I teach leadership and entrepreneurship and see success in the results. I don’t teach acting, singing, or entertaining to people who want to lead, but I use similar structure and techniques.
If you want to lead, better learn skills important for performance.
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