Lesher was born on May 12, 1966 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard University in 1988 before launching his career as an agent at the Bauer-Benedek Agency. From there, Lesher moved to the United Talent Agency (UTA), where he became a partner. After 15 years at UTA Lesher left UTA for Endeavor, where his clients included Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alejandro Iñárritu, and Judd Apatow. In 2005, he was made head of Paramount Vantage, a new brand derived from Paramount Classics that produced and distributed arthouse-oriented titles. The company produced such Oscar-winning pictures as Inarritu's Babel (2006), the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men (2007), and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007). The success of these films led to Lesher's appointment in 2008 as President of Paramount Pictures, where he oversaw a several major features, including J.J. Abrams' reboot of the Star Trek (2008) franchise and David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). "Star Trek" was his only blockbuster. Other titles released by Paramount during his tenure, like Iron Man (2008), were distribution titles made at other companies, while other projects, like the Mike Myers comedy Love Guru (2008) and Imagine That (2009) were failures. Lesher was dismissed as Paramount president in the summer of 2009. He formed his own production company, Le Grisbi, which released several box office hits between 2012 and 2014. Among their most popular efforts was Birdman, which earned Lesher an Oscar for Best Picture in 2015.