They made news, reached the pinnacles of their professions, pushed, broke moulds and revolutionised entire disciplines. But what else do Einstein, Howard Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg have in common besides being titans of their fields?

They were branded strange, odd, unconventional and peculiar; they were labelled eccentric.

Einstein used the same soap every day of his life because he strongly believed that using different kinds would needlessly complicate life. Similarly, maverick CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears the same clothes to work every day because he believes it will help him be more productive.

There is no great genius without some touch of madness. – Aristotle

Other eccentric leaders include Howard Hughes, who locked himself in a darkened screening room for months, without bathing, surviving on chocolate bars and milk. And José Mujica, Uruguay’s 40th head of state, who was dubbed the world’s “poorest” president for living in a shack and donating 90% of his salary to charity. It begs the question: Do great leadership and eccentricity go hand in hand?

7 reasons why leaders may be eccentric

  1. They are idealists.

    Anyone who goes against normal social conventions is regarded as odd. Great leaders stick out like a sore thumb as they often take the road less travelled. They may be accused of being naive, and even insane, for their world-changing ideas and inventions. But, it shouldn’t come as a surprise; human beings have been resisting change for thousands of years.

  2. They are prophets.

    When you arrive at the future before anyone else, you will never be understood by those who can only see the present. Nelson Mandela saw a South Africa free of racial discrimination, but many on both sides thought he was an irrational dreamer.

  3. They are opinionated.

    Because a strong leader believes in their dreams with all of their mind, heart and soul, they are not only unwavering in their pursuit of them, but they are also outspoken. They are convinced they are right and the whole world is wrong. If you present sound arguments as to why their visions won’t work, they will disagree – with or without proof.

  4. They are obsessed.

    The supreme object of desire for great leaders is not money, power or fame, but the fulfilment of their goals and dreams. When an individual is fanatical about an idea or dream, they will hound it.

  5. They are highly creative.

    They make connections between two totally different things that appear ridiculous at first glance. Researchers believe that there is a link between creativity and eccentricity; they believe that both traits may be a result of how the brain filters incoming information.

  6. They don’t fit in.

    They think, act and live differently. They break rules when they want to and make up new ones. They don’t feel the same need as the rest of us to fit in. Bringing their vision to life is more important to them than following social norms.

  7. They are not yet successful.

    While embarking on a journey to achieve the seemingly impossible, a leader appears crazy; but when they succeed, they become an instant genius. Success is the only vindicator of those who dare to dream the impossible.

    They laughed at the Wright Brothers when they proposed that it was possible to fly, and they ridiculed Christopher Columbus when he postulated that the Earth was round. Let’s see what Elon Musk does next.