Three of four world leaders have themselves declared bankrupt, fired or investigated

Just 20% of top world leaders are women while top 3 male leaders have been fired, investigated or declared bankrupt

world leaders

New research explores the world’s most powerful leaders and their careers before politics to understand just how they managed to reach the top and demonstrate that if they can excel in their fields, there is nothing to stop others.

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Zety, the career site and resume builders, found that three out of the top four world leaders have either been fired, investigated or declared bankrupt in their careers before politics, yet they still overcame these obstacles to become leader of their countries.

Trump, Johnson and Putin declared bankrupt or investigated

The four main leaders analysed were Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. Trump had previously seen several of his casinos fall into bankruptcy, with several other business ventures also failing, Boris Johnson was fired a number of times as a journalist and in government, while Vladimir Putin was investigated for suspicious activity in his previous role before becoming Russia’s leader.

The only leader out of the top 4 analysed who avoided controversy before becoming head of their country was the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who worked as a university researcher for much of her career before governing.

Interestingly, despite the only woman in the top four leaders being the one person who avoided trouble, the representation of women leaders across the 25 countries is quite low, with just 20% of those leaders being female.

A Look At Angela Merkel

To show exactly how career paths and timings differ, Zety worked out that when Donald Trump was aged 45, several of his casinos had gone bankrupt, while when Angela Merkel was 45, she had just been selected as the first ever female leader of a German political party.

They also looked at the world’s top 25 leaders (according to U.S. News & World Report) and what the most common fields of work they had all been in before politics. Indeed, other than governmental roles, the legal profession was the most popular field, with 20% of the leaders involved in law, followed by education (16%) and media (16%).

The various other fields include tourism, property, construction, the military, finance, health care and business, which shows not only that there is not just one perceived path to a certain type of job but that you shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone when paving the road to your version of success. Even the world’s most powerful people have been through severe career turbulence before bouncing back and rising to the top, while career changes and transitions need not be too terrifying if you have the drive and opportunity to succeed when you can.

Breakdown of Trump, Johnson, Putin and Merkel and episodes of declared bankrupt, fired or investigated

Trump: Trump went into the family business after graduating, taking over his father’s company at 24. His continued to grow his portfolio, developing Trump Towers at 36, the Mar-a-Lago estate at 39 and landing a book deal at 41. Things went downhill as he accrued hefty personal debt, oversaw several casinos going bust and reported millions of dollars’ worth of losses. A stint as host of The Apprentice and being awarded a Walk of Fame star followed, before announcing his 2016 Presidential candidacy. The rest is history.

Johnson: After a promising start in journalism, he was fired just a year after starting his graduate role at The Times after inventing a quote from a famous historian in an article. Despite this, he found success at other publications. He failed a first attempt of being elected to Parliament but soon won a seat in 2001 though within a year of being appointed vice-chairman and shadow arts minister of the Conservative Party, Johnson was dismissed after lying about an affair with a colleague. Johnson was also dismissed from The Spectator, yet his stature continued to rise. He became London Mayor and then eventually won the Conservative Leadership race following Theresa May’s resignation, to be elected as UK Prime Minister.

Putin Vs Merkel

Putin: An immediate look at Putin’s timeline shows a steady stream of successes, from his stint in the KGB, followed by work as an undercover translator, working in International Affairs and holding several political positions in St Petersburg. He encountered controversy in 1992 when an investigation into his conduct recommended, he be fired for misdeeds, but he survived and continued to rise in politics, and soon became Acting Prime Minister, then Acting President until winning his first Presidential election in 2000.

Merkel: After graduating with a degree in physics, she went on to study in Berlin before being awarded a doctorate for her thesis on quantum chemistry. In the aftermath of the 1989 revolutions she joined the Democratic Awakening as a spokesperson and subsequently the Christian Democratic Union party where she was promoted until in 2000, she became the first female leader of a German party. A further five years later, she went on to become the first woman, first East German and the youngest person to hold the office of Chancellor.

declared bankrupt




About the Author

Jacob Wolinsky
Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of ValueWalk.com, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Prior to ValueWalk, Jacob was VP of Business Development at SumZero. Prior to SumZero, Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at)valuewalk.com - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver