1. Mark Zuckerberg ate only meat of animals he himself killed (in 2011, at least).In 2011, Zuckerberg disclosed that he was taking a personal challenge to eat only meat that came from animals he himself killed. Zuckerberg claimed the effort was to remind himself to be thankful for how readily available food is in the modern world, and to experience the significance of sustainable farming practices. While the effort was temporary, ending in 2012, Zuckerberg is still committed to eating healthfully and responsibly.
Zuckerberg’s experience was temporary but powerful. Few people in the modern world would be willing to go to such lengths in order to prove a point or enlighten themselves. His challenge encouraged several habits: taking charge of his own food preparation, practicing economically savvy farming, and eating more healthfully. In line with the characteristics of many charismatic leaders, this effort allowed him to take control of his own situation, make a unique effort that impacts a broader environment, and take better care of himself.
2. Henry Ford ate weeds that came from his own garden. According to Sidney Olson’s biography Young Henry Ford, Ford began to think of his own body as a type of car, which needed the right fuel in order to work properly. Paying close attention to what he ate, Ford’s diet would consist largely of “roadside greens”–vegetables and weeds that he would harvest himself and prepare as salads or as parts of sandwiches. His eating habits turned many of his associates away, but he remained adherent to his culinary philosophy.
While the nutritional value of weeds varies, Ford’s habits are interesting because they were an extension of his company’s vision. Ford wanted to build the best machines, and the best machines needed the best fuel. That uncompromising philosophy extended to his own meals, giving him the motivation and grit to pursue a better diet, even though most of us would consider it unpleasant (if not disgusting).
3. Howard Hughes was extremely germophobic. Brilliant and reclusive, Hughes was well known for his obsessive-compulsive habits and extreme fear of germs. Before Hughes completely isolated himself from society, he hired several servants to ensure his meals were as clean as possible. According to some reports, Hughes demanded that his utensils be wrapped in plastic and then handled with tissues before he would use them for a meal.
Hughes’s habits were extreme, but germophobia and obsessive-compulsive habits are all too common in charismatic, successful leaders (take Donald Trump as another example). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious mental illness, but obsessive habits are hallmarks of perfectionists and detail-oriented individuals. If you find yourself nitpicking small details and fine-tuning setups, chances are you apply that same sort of perfectionism to your business.
4. Margaret Thatcher went on a crash diet before the 1979 election. First female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was recently revealed to have gone on a dramatic “crash diet” in 1979, in the weeks leading up to her landmark election win. Boiled eggs, grapefruit, black coffee, and vegetables constituted most of her diet in an effort to lose weight quickly–but she cooked all her food herself.
Thatcher was a strong leader who worked hard to execute her ideals and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty by doing the work herself. These core characteristics are evident even in her eating habits, given the fact that she would opt for such a restrictive regimen just to improve her appearance. Crash diets aren’t healthy, but to see them through takes discipline and commitment–both of which are essential for leaders.
5. Charles Darwin discovered countless species–and ate them. Darwin is well known as being the father of evolutionary theory, a result of his dedicated passion for discovering and studying forms of life. Over the course of his career as a scientist, he discovered countless species of animals, including iguanas, tortoises, and owls. What most people don’t know is that Darwin was a part of a Cambridge University organization called the Gourmet Club, whose members thrived on cooking and eating such rare and new species.
While the motivation behind Darwin’s eating habits was never explicitly revealed, it’s fairly obvious that he was passionate about his work. Darwin wanted to know everything he could about the animals he studied, and strangely, that manifested in a desire to eat some of them. Still, that passionate desire to know everything you can about your subject is what drives people to become great leaders in their field.
6. Winston Churchill valued dedicated, full meals. Churchill’s strong personality is still well known and celebrated. Tenacious, witty, and tactful, Churchill is said to have valued table talk as a medium for important discussions, and preferred large meals of oysters, cheese, and various meats. He prioritized meals, even in periods of high stress or chaos.
Churchill saw meals as an important part of his lifestyle, regardless of circumstances, and used them to his advantage when it came to holding diplomatic discussions. Like Churchill, great leaders prioritize certain elements of their own lifestyle even when under great pressure–it is a consistent foundation that can keep you sane and focused.
7. Steve Jobs was a vegan–and would eat one type of food for weeks at a time.Many people familiar with the ingenious former CEO of Apple know that he was a longtime vegan, believing that his vegan eating habits were pure, healthy, and kept him free of body odor. Fewer people know that he would spend weeks at a time eating only one type of food, such as apples or carrots. As reported in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, he once ate so many carrots that his skin turned bright orange.
Jobs was one of the most eccentric leaders of our time, and his strange eating habits may not come as a surprise to those familiar with his obsessive personality. Charismatic leaders are able to determine which efforts are most important, and see those efforts through no matter what. Jobs was willing to see his eating habits through even after turning orange, and he was able to turn Apple into one of the most successful companies in the world even after facing adversity.
Your own eating habits may or may not be a reflection of your style of leadership. If you find yourself creating uncompromising, almost ritualistic habits, you’re probably the type of person who plans ahead and prioritizes consistency, both of which are important. If you find yourself being picky or eating in strange ways, you’re probably a perfectionist and you don’t care what other people think, which are also important qualities.
No matter what type of leader you are, it’s important to learn from the leaders who came before you. By knowing their mistakes and shining successes, you can adjust your own approach and become a better leader in your own right.