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How to be a superstar at work like Rajinikanth

career lessons from Rajinikanth

What makes Rajinikanth a superstar? Other actors have tried to copy his walk, the way he flicks his hair, his dialogue delivery and the tricks he performs with cigarettes and sunglasses in an attempt to emulate his success. But no one’s come close to receiving the adulation shown to Rajini ‘Thalaiva’ (boss). His every film release is celebrated like a festival and sets the box office soaring to new records.

There is a lot that one can learn from Rajnikanth, especially those climbing the corporate ladder. You may not have his moves, or even need them in the office but there are quite a few lessons that one can learn from him.

#1 Don’t be afraid to start small
Life hasn’t been easy for Rajinikanth. After his mother passed away, he worked as a coolie to support his family. He even took up work as a carpenter and a bus conductor. When he made his big-screen debut in Kamal Hassan-starrer Apoorva Raagangal in 1975, he continued playing negative roles for the next two years, until he was finally cast as the lead in Telugu film Chilakamma Cheppindi.

The lesson: If the work interests you and you love what you do, there’s no good or bad. Take up whatever comes your way and build on that. Your sincerity and talent will find takers.

#2 Always be open to learning
Keen to make a mark in movies, Rajni joined the Madras Film Institute. When noted director K. Balachander offered him a role in his forthcoming Tamil film, he suggested that learning Tamil would stand him in good stead in the future. Rajini signed up for lessons immediately. He’s now known primarily for his work in Tamil films!

The lesson: Growing complacent is the worst thing you can do to yourself or your career. A willingness to learn will ensure that you keep growing.


#3 Let your work do the talking

Tooting your own horn once in a while is fine but you can’t keep going at it hammer and tongs. Rajinikanth may be at the top of his game but how often have you heard him talking about success? Extremely taciturn, he prefers to let his work talk for him.

The lesson: If you want people to have a high opinion of you the key is not to tell them how brilliant you are. That kind of self-promotion has a tendency to backfire.


#4 Find a work-life balance

Even a superstar who does one movie every two or three years can find it tough to balance work and life. For the past 15 years, Rajini has been going to the Himalayas after every film to unwind. “I go alone, without anybody. I go into the interiors…being there itself is like meditation,” he has said. He also never schedules meetings after 9 pm, preferring to be with family.

The lesson: To truly achieve success, you must live your life striking the right balance between business time, family time, and me time.


#5 Focus on what’s inside, not the outside.
Rajini is one superstar who has absolutely no qualms about aging, balding or grey hair. He wears a dhoti-kurta most of the time, and still treasures old possessions like clothes, photos and his first car. “[On celluloid, people] feel my hero should look like a hero. Outside it doesn't matter. People are intelligent, they know everything. Why unnecessarily give yourself discomfort?” he says.

The lesson: It’s important you let others see the real you. You’ll be happier, connect better with those around you. People who bring their authentic selves to work are not only happier, they're much more productive.


#6 Be humble & accept defeats in your stride

The superstar is known as much for his humility as he is for his mega-successes. Viji Chandrasekhar, a co-star, says it all: “He treats everybody on sets with utmost respect and equal importance. Be it a light boy or a co-star, he doesn't discriminate for any reason.” Rajini drives his own car, refuses an entourage during shoots and events, and has no starry airs. And if a film doesn’t do well at the box-office, he humbly takes the blame and returns money to distributors.

The lesson: People who are humble and admit mistakes are known to be more effective leaders, as these traits encourage better employee engagement and job performance.


Showmanship and style may have their place but they can never replace simplicity, humility and hard work. For more tips to shine at work, click here