What can Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey teach us about leadership?

Friday, March 7th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Many people look up to actors and actresses that they respect, but few would identify them as leaders. However, their drive to succeed as actors can certainly inform others who seek leadership roles in other professions.

Consider actor Matthew McConaughey, who won an Oscar last Sunday for his lead role in the movie Dallas Buyer's Club. The film tells the story of Ron Woodroof—played by McConaughey—who is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and takes it upon himself to sell medication illegally to others with the disease.

In his acceptance speech, McConaughey began by thanking those in his life who had helped him get to where he is today, like his parents and his wife and children. Any business leader will recognize this impulse—a big part of running a successful team is knowing where to give credit when credit is due.

McConaughey also had something to say about inspiration and role models.

"To my hero, that's who I chase. When I was 15 years old, I had an important person in my life come to me and say, 'Who is your hero?' And I said, 'I don't know. I gotta think about that. Give me a couple weeks.' I come back two weeks later and this person comes up, 'Who's your hero?' I said, 'I thought about it, you know who it is? It's me in 10 years,'" McConaughey said. "So I turn 25, 10 years later, and that same person comes to me and says, 'So, are you a hero?' And I say, 'Not even close. No, no, no. My hero is me at 35.'"

No matter how accomplished they are, all leaders need someone to look up to. And smart leaders know that the pursuit of perfection is a journey that has no end.

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