Nvidia’s CEO was labeled a ‘demanding’ boss by staff. Experts discuss

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang attends a media roundtable in Singapore on December 6, 2023.

Edgar Su | Reuters

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang knows he’s a tough boss and doesn’t regret it.

In a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” employees at the company’s Santa Clara headquarters told correspondent Bill Whitaker that the contractor was “demanding,” “a perfectionist” and “not easy to work for.” .

Huang, who co-founded the chipmaker in 1993 that is now worth more than $2 trillion, said that described him “perfectly.”

“It should be like this. If you want to do extraordinary things, it shouldn’t be easy,” he told Whitaker.

This is not the first time Huang’s leadership style has been in the spotlight. He previously told CNBC that he had “50 direct reports” to prevent unnecessary layers of management from developing in the company — most CEOs have about 10 direct reports.

He said he expects senior managers to operate very independently, with little guidance and care.

In the age of the empathetic leader, Huang’s tactic may be a little controversial, but experts say it takes grit to lead one of the world’s biggest companies.

“He is to some extent ruthless,” Wladislaw Rivkin, associate professor of organizational behavior at Trinity Business School, told CNBC Make It. “He’s the head of a company valued at trillions of dollars and went through a very rigorous selection process because a lot of tech companies are billions or trillions of dollars.”

Many small companies went bankrupt, but Nvidia “survived,” Rivkin noted. You have to be “resilient” to operate at this level, he added.

Additionally, Huang’s tenure in Silicon Valley lasted more than three decades, which is “pretty rare,” according to Sankalp Chaturvedi, professor of organizational behavior and leadership at Imperial College Business School.

Workers at a top company like Nvidia usually have other options, but “they choose to stay as long as they can,” Chaturvedi says, which suggests Huang is doing something right.

Huang runs Nvidia like a “machine”

Huang’s immigrant background played a role in shaping his leadership style, behavioral experts told CNBC.

The billionaire was born in Taiwan in 1963 and was later sent to the United States by his parents at the age of nine, even though he spoke no English.

He spent some time at a boarding school where he was bullied relentlessly, according to a New York profile. As a teenager, he took part-time jobs and worked as a dishwasher at Denny’s restaurant and even cleaned toilets.

Huang now displays a “task-oriented” leadership style that values ​​accomplishing tasks, setting ambitious goals and monitoring performance, Rivkin said.

This is reminiscent of an immigrant background and a work ethic where the belief reigns that “to get ahead you have to work hard,” he added.

Task-oriented leaders can be “effective” because they tend to challenge their employees, Rivkin said.

“We have a lot of evidence, both in leadership and motivation research, that challenges can motivate people and enable them to achieve peak performance,” according to Rivkin.

Having to “fight” from a young age also indicates that he prefers to have a high degree of control over all aspects of the business, Chaturvedi explained.

“He understands his organization as a machine that thinks about plans and economic issues,” Chaturvedi said.

While this approach has paid off over the decades, Huang may have overlooked other important leadership traits.

Empathetic leadership is “demanding”

Ultimately, they believe Huang’s leadership style could be improved.

“I think caring for people’s well-being, recognizing people as people, not just workers, may be something that could be studied,” Rivkin said.

But being a people-oriented leader and meeting the needs of workers is “very demanding,” he said. This requires remembering people’s names and maintaining relationships with many people, Chaturvedi added.

“Being task-oriented requires a lot less energy because you set the task, you set the deadline, you set the milestone, you check it, and then that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t matter who is essentially doing the work” , Rivkin said.

And the only thing Huang seriously lacks, with 50 direct reports to manage, is time.

“We all have 24 hours a day and the more direct reporting we have, the harder it is to coordinate,” Chaturvedi said.

“I can tell you with certainty that he must have a hard time managing so many direct reports,” Chaturvedi added. “He’s trying to control every moment of operations and not coordinate his forces, and that’s where the problem lies.”

A lot of people want to work for Nvidia, which is why Huang’s tough leadership style has worked so far, because there will always be a revolving door of talent flowing through the company, according to Rivkin.

“If your company has difficulty hiring talented employees, which applies to most companies in the market, then I think it will be difficult to lead with such a ruthless leadership style, because the people who have the choice and looking at it from an employee’s point of view “I’ll just look for other opportunities,” Rivkin said.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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