10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power

Stephanie Schoppert - February 3, 2017

Most world leaders enter the job of running a country with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Some have degrees in law, economics, and political science, and they spend years building up a reputation within their political parties. But sometimes the path to running a country is not quite so straightforward.

Many leaders of the most powerful countries in the world had past jobs that most people would not expect. Here are just a few of the strange jobs of world leaders before they took control of an entire country.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Silvio Berlusconi Singing on a Cruise Ship. The Guardian

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – Cruise Ship Singer

Silvio Berlusconi did not have a typical rise to power. Born in Milan, he grew up to be a very enterprising young man. First, he started a career selling vacuum cleaners. From there he moved on to a more lucrative profession of singing on cruise ships. His voice was good enough to start building a reputation both at sea and on land in various nightclubs. Berlusconi was never content to stay with one profession, and he left the life of a singer to pursue a law degree.

In 1961 he graduated with a law degree and then created his own construction company. Through his company, he becomes known as a residential builder throughout Milan. His successful construction company led Berlusconi to seek out yet another opportunity. In 1971 he launched his own cable company, Telemilano.

That company went on to become the biggest media empire in Italy under the name of Mediaset. He used his successful companies to build the holding company Fininvest, which soon controlled the largest publishing house in Italy, the newspaper Il Giornale, and the AC Milan football club.

Still not satisfied with his success, he formed his own political party, Forza Italia, in 1993. He ran for Prime Minister in 1994 and won, but was forced to resign due to scandal later that same year. In 2001, Berlusconi ran for Prime Minster and won again. He remained in power until 2011 when he is forced to resign. Amazingly, Berlusconi did not run for Prime Minister again in 2013 and won.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Pope Francis. Washington Free Beacon

Pope Francis – Nightclub Bouncer

Pope Francis is one of the most celebrated Popes in modern history with many followers who believe that he brings a new view of moderation and understanding to the church. His beliefs and practices have brought new followers into the fold of the Catholic church and have encouraged many to look more favorably at the religion. However, part of Pope Francis’ appeal might come from his rather unusual past, or at least unusual in terms of a future Pope.

The call of the church was not immediate for Francis, and he held a number of odd jobs throughout his life. He went to college in Buenos Aires, and like many students, he had to do whatever it took to make ends meet. During the day, he swept floors and ran chemical tests, and at night he worked as a bouncer at a nightclub.

It was on a visit to Rome that Jorge Mario Bergoglio (as the Pope was known then) stepped into a church. As he stood looking up at the magnificent building, a parishioner stopped him. They asked if he would be willing to pray for a family member who wanted to become a Franciscan friar.

As he prayed with the parishioner, he discovered his own calling. He joined the priesthood and worked his way up to become a Bishop. Then on March 13, 2013, he was elected the Pope, a moment that he recalled as nerve-racking, but a position that now feels natural to him.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Lyndon B. Johnson. Business Insider

President Lyndon B. Johnson – Goat Herder

Lyndon B. Johnson grew up in Texas and it was a very modest upbringing. He lived in a small farmhouse with his parents and four siblings. Johnson’s parents were insistent that he should attend school, and it was there that he excelled. He especially enjoyed public speaking, debate, and baseball. Johnson sought out ways to make money in order to finance his education and help his parents. At the age of 9, he started shining shoes during the summer and he was so good at it that he would take up the job again in high school when he needed money.

Johnson also took on work on his Uncle’s farm. His first job for his uncle was as a goat herder where he would ensure that the goats got where they needed to in order to graze and then bring them back again. When he was not herding the goats, he was sent off to the cotton fields.

He kept up these jobs until he graduated high school, after which he took a job as a teacher before making his way into politics in 1930. As a politician worked his way up from the House to the Senate to the Vice Presidency with a break in-between to serve in the Navy during World War II.

Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the President just hours after the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963. He ran for election in 1964 and won the Presidency in his own right. He decided not to run for re-election in 1968, and instead decided to focus on building his party behind a new candidate.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Tony Blair. The Spectator

British Prime Minister Tony Blair – Stand-Up Comedian and Wannabe Rock Star

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair could have two spots on this list as he was not only a stand-up comedian, but he was also a member of the rock band “Ugly Rumours.” Both stints were during his time at Oxford, and he recalls them both with a bit of embarrassment. He tried his hand at being a stand-up comedian as a way to make money, but found that he was very “dire” at it. He said his stand-up persona was a bit like that of Captain Kirk and that it never quite took off, but it did give him the ability to be “ruthless.”

It is unclear whether he laments his stand-up career more than his rock career, however. He ended up as the singer for the rock band Ugly Rumours. According to Blair, he got the job solely because he was the only one that showed up to the audition knowing all the words to the song they wanted him to sing. He sang “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” like Mick Jagger, and it was a style that he would continue to imitate as the band’s singer.

But as a career, it was never meant to be, as the band only played half a dozen gigs together. One person who saw the band remembered Blair as having “no cool” and being a “nerd,” a “puppy with his hair flapping like ears.” With reviews like that, it’s probably for the good of everyone that there is no video proof.

From there, Blair tried his hand at being a band manager before reluctantly going down the path of last resort and entering politics. He was much more successful in his political career, despite being one of the most controversial prime ministers in modern British history.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Thorvald Stauning. hjyllands-posten.dk

Prime Minister of Denmark Thorvald Stauning – Cigar Sorter

Thorvald Stauning was the first Socialist Prime Minister of Denmark, so it may not be too surprising that he came from much more modest roots than many of his political colleagues. He was born in Copenhagen in 1873, and as a young man, he became trained as a cigar sorter as a means of supporting himself. At the time men were employed to sort the cigars based on color variations in order to place cigars of the same hue in the same box together.

Once the cigars were placed in the box, a board would be placed over the row of cigars and the box would then be put in a press. Next, a hand wheel would be turned in order to apply pressure to the box and seal it. He was also trained to notice any imperfections and keep a record of all cigars in his possession.

Soon after starting his career as a cigar sorter, he joined the trade union. From 1896 until 1908 he was the leader of the Cigar Sorters’ Union. At the same time, he was a magazine editor, and in 1906 he was elected a member of Parliament. Once he started working in Parliament his focus changed, and in 1910 he was elected the chairman of the Social Democratic Party. He remained the chairman until 1939, an unprecedented length of time. When he became Prime Minister in 1916 he made history by creating the first solely Social Democratic Cabinet. His cabinet also gained worldwide attention when he appointed Nina Bang as the Minister of Education making her one of the first female ministers in the world.

He ran again for the Prime Minister position in 1932 and won, then he made history again by winning both subsequent elections. It was through his dedication and leadership that Denmark developed a social welfare state. His cabinet remained in power until the Nazi occupation of Denmark began in April 1940.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Franz Vranitzky Salzburger Nachrichten

Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky – Professional Basketball Player

Franz Vranitzky was born on October 4, 1937, to very humble beginnings. He lived in Vienna’s 17th district and did not attend the fancy schools that some of his predecessors did. He worked his way through college, graduating in 1960 with a degree in economics. Vranitzky paid for his studies and his living expenses by teaching languages and by working in construction.

Though he was busy working and putting himself through school, he made time for playing basketball. The sport became a true passion for him and he joined the Austrian national team. However, despite Vranitzky’s passion and the passion of his teammates, they were not able to qualify for the 1960 Olympic Games.

In 1961, he abandoned his basketball dreams and moved on to a career in banking. His humble beginnings led him to join the Social Democratic Party of Austria and he went back to school to continue to better himself. He eventually graduated with a Doctorate in International Business Studies, which propelled him up through the banking industry. By 1981, he was the director general of Österreichische Länderbank; a long way from his time as a basketball player. His focus in politics changed, and in 1984 he joined the SPO-Freedom Party and became the Minister of Finance under Chancellor Fred Sinowatz.

The political climate of Austria changed due to a scandal when Kurt Waldheim was elected president. Many around the world shunned the Austrian President because of his actions as a German officer during World War II. The controversy caused Chancellor Sinowatz to resign, and he named Vranitzky as his successor. Vranitzky addressed the controversy and became the first Chancellor to openly admit the role Austria played during the war. She served as Chancellor until his resignation in 1997.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Idi Amin. History.com

President of Uganda Idi Amin – Doughnut Vendor and Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Idi Amin of Uganda is known throughout the world as one of Africa’s most brutal dictators. Some reports claim that he personally ordered the slaughter of 500,000 people. He ruled with absolute authority and terror, but his career path started from much stranger beginnings. Amin gave his official birth date on January 1, 1925, but said that he had no idea of when he was born, either in 1924 or 1925.

Abandoned by his father, he grew up with his mother’s family at Koboko as part of the Kakwa tribe. He went to school up until the fourth grade and from there did odd jobs while his mother worked as an herbalist (though some called her a sorceress).

It was during his childhood that he started to make money for himself selling a type of Ugandan doughnut called mandazi. It was a job he kept from the age of 9 until he was hired as an assistant cook by the King’s African Rifles (KAR) in 1946. The KAR was a division of the British Colonial Army and over the years he worked his way up through the ranks. By 1961 he was promoted to Lieutenant and become one of the first Ugandan officers in the British Colonial Army. Part of the reason for his rising through the ranks was his athletic ability. Amin was adept at swimming and was a good rugby forward. From 1951 until 1960, he was also the Ugandan light heavyweight boxing champion.

Amin was promoted by Prime Minister Milton Obote to Army Commander in 1966, at which point Amin began building a strong network of followers. In 1971, a rift between Obote and Amin caused Amin to use his troops to seize the power of the country. He declared himself President and thus began one of the most terrifying reigns in the history of the African continent.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Joseph Stalin 1902. Europebetweeneastandwest WordPress

Joseph Stalin – Weatherman

Joseph Stalin was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili in the town of Gori in the Tiflis Governorate of the Russian Empire. Today the area is part of Georgia. His father was a cobbler by profession and his mother was a housemaid. As a child, Stalin hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps, but as his father descended into alcoholism, his mother insisted that he attend school.

When his father found out that Stalin had been enrolled in school he went on a drunken violent rampage that had him expelled from his hometown. Stalin did well in school and earned a scholarship to attend the Tiflis Spiritual Seminary. Within one year, Stalin became an atheist.

Instead of focusing on his studies he threw himself into books and became a Georgian cultural nationalist. He started publishing poetry in Georgian in the local papers and became involved in student politics. In 1899, he was expelled from the Seminary for failing to show up for his final exams and being unable to pay his tuition. Free from the confines of school, Stalin had more time to pursue his own interests which led him to discover the writings of Vladimir Lenin. Inspired by the worlds of the revolutionary, Stalin joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. To focus on his love of learning and still have time for his revolutionary activities, Stalin took a job in a meteorological office at the age of 21.

He was employed as an observer and recorder of meteorological data at the Tiflis Main Physical Observatory. His revolutionary activities would bring an end to his time at the Observatory when the Tsar’s secret police came looking for him. On April 3, 1901 Stalin saw the police waiting to ambush him at the Observatory and was able to flee to avoid capture. From that moment on he became a full-time revolutionary, living off donations and eventually joining Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1903.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Mao Zedong. Encyclopedia Britannica

Mao Zedong – Assistant Librarian

Mao Zedong was the leader of the Communist Party of China and is one of the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China. He is also responsible for a collection of political theories and military strategies known as Maoism. He is a polarizing figure that was seen by many as the man who modernized China, drove out Imperialism, and made the country into a world power. By others, Mao is recognized as little more than a brutal dictator comparable to Hitler and Stalin.

He was born to a wealthy farming family in Shaoshan in 1893. Mao was sent to school and had an arranged marriage, but found himself stifled by his controlling family. He joined the army but resigned in 1912 after just six months. Mao then tried a number of different pursuits including the police academy, soap production, economics school, law school, and he finally ended up attending Changsha Middle School. He spent most of his time in the library reading about the great philosophers and scientists of the West. His father grew impatient with Mao’s focus on intellectualism instead of the farm and he cut off his son. This forced Mao to live in a hostel and beg for food.

After graduating from Changsha Middle School, Mao went on to Peking University. He was still destitute but was given a job as an assistant librarian at the University library. He was paid so little that he had to live in a small room with seven others just to survive while in school. His financial position and his studies led him to join the Chinese Nationalist Party in 1920.

That same year, General Tan Yankai of the Chinese Nationalist Party led his troops into Changsha and forced the Governor of the Hunan Province to flee. For his support, Mao was named headmaster of the First Normal School, where he earned a substantial salary. From there, Mao rose through the ranks of the communist party and eventually took control of China.

10 Strange Jobs World Leaders Held Before They Came To Power
Borut Pahor. Slovenia Times

Slovenian President Borut Pahor – Male Model

Borut Pahor was born on November 2, 1963, in Yugoslavia (what is now Slovenia). His father died when he was young and he was raised by his mother, who had survived a Nazi concentration camp. He was dedicated to his studies and graduated from Nova Garcia High School in 1983. He continued his schooling at the University of Ljubljana where he studied political science and public policy. At the University, he earned the Student Preseren Award, the highest academic award for Slovenian students.

Pahor had to work in order to pay for his studies and support himself through school. He did this by working as a male model. Pahor garnered some fame as a model, but his true intention was always to become involved in Slovenian politics.

Pahor became a member of the Alliance of Socialist Youth of Slovenia when he was 15, and in college, he joined the League of Communists in Slovenia. From there he rose through the ranks of the Communist party and became one of the strongest advocates of the reform wing of the Communist party throughout the late 1980s. In 1988, he made Slovenian history as the first high-ranking member of the Communist Party to suggest turning away from a one-party system and moving toward party pluralism. In 1989, he became the youngest member of the Central Committee of the League of Communists in Slovenia.

As the Communist Party started to lose power in Slovenia through the first free elections in the 1990s, Pahor continued to move up through the ranks. In 2000, he was elected chairman of the Slovenian National Assembly and he gained a following for being moderate and non-partisan. From 2008 until 2012, he served as Slovenia’s Prime Minster, which paved the way for him to make a presidential run in 2012. He won the election with 67.3% of the vote.