As C.E.O., I learned firsthand what an emotional roller coaster it is to run a company. You can feel so high and so low in the space of a single day. Now, when I work with start-up C.E.O.s and they tell me life is so great, I figure it’s never that great, and when they tell me it’s so bad, it’s never so bad.
The other thing I learned as C.E.O. is that it’s very lonely. If you share all the doubts and fears with people, then people sort of freak out, whether they’re other investors or employees or executives. You have to provide a path to success. So what I found as C.E.O. is that you almost need a split personality.
On the one hand, you have to appear like Moses, so that people believe that you’re going to take them to the Promised Land. And you have to present a very simple, clear path to success. On the other hand, if you just believe all of that, you can easily run the company off a cliff. Being a C.E.O. requires a lot of faith and passion, but for making decisions, sometimes truth and faith are different.
So you also have to be a skeptic, almost like Galileo. You can have beliefs, but you have to really search for the truth, which is often tied to bad news.
Tae Hea Nahm, as quoted in Adam Bryant, “A Believer and a Skeptic in One”, The New York Times (28 June 2015), BU2.