I had a professor while at Marist that shared the unhealthy, manic lifestyle of his students. He'd come into class - over caffeinated and wearing a four day beard - and tell us about the essay he was trying to finish on a tight deadline. He was very easy to relate to, although it didn't hurt that he was one of the younger professors at 32. I remember one time, before our first test, he had a review session at about 8 P.M., at least twelve hours since he got to work. The inspiring part wasn't that he was still working - anybody can do that - but that he was still gushing energy and happiness to perform the most fundamental part of his job: teaching students.
When I think about the perfect leader, I usually come up with an image that one of my favorite writers, Robert Greene, would call the "Hustler King," a leader that is still in tune with the daily struggles of his enterprise. That proximity is the source of his strength. The person grading his students' papers, learning their ideas, is the professor; the person solving the client's problem, sharing their frustration, is the CEO; the person behind the camera, explaining to customers what went wrong, is not the PR people, it's the person who was responsible for the mistake.
At some point in time, every job gets delegated down to somebody else. Professors have TAs, CEOs have employees, and companies have PR firms. This is the typical way organizations develop and grow. It's average. It's normal. It works. But with that delegation comes an almost aristocratic distance. Being far away from your students, your customers, your clients, your audience...it robs you of that intimate knowledge that breeds real intuition. That's what I want for myself one day.
I see that professor as an example of a Hustler King, jubilant to still be helping his students learn at 8 o'clock at night. What other Hustler Kings are out there? Do you know any that inspire you?