Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld explains why he stopped taking advice after turning 35

NASDAQ Bob Greifeld 3Hollis JohnsonNasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld in Nasdaq Inc.’s Manhattan headquarters.

Around the time Bob Greifeld turned 35 in 1992, he stopped taking advice.

He was hired in ’91 as the COO of Automated Securities Clearance, Inc., an executive position that, obviously, implied his skills and judgment were valued and trusted. He soon realised his position as a leader meant that he needed to be confident in himself and not seek out answers from others.

“If I’m being honest, after 35 I thought I had somehow figured it out!” Greifeld told Business Insider in Nasdaq, Inc.’s Manhattan headquarters, where he’s served as CEO since 2003. In his 13 years as head of Nasdaq, he’s taken the exchange from a backwards firm bleeding money to one that is the top player by market share in the US options and equity markets.

Greifeld defined his realisation as a 35-year-old as a clear shift in his thinking. “It was a long period of time to be the neophyte and just open to every input,” he said of the first act of his career. “So when people say, ‘Who influenced you the most?’ I can think of 20 or 30 people that I really listened to and learned from.”

Greifeld clarified that he’s not saying he became a stubborn egomaniac; he distinguishes acting on others’ advice from considering a range of input before making a decision. To him, becoming a leader means trusting your own judgment.

Greifeld said he expects his executive team at Nasdaq to share this perspective. When he’s in a meeting with them on Monday mornings, for example, he expects everyone there to have strong opinions they can defend. He needs them to consider enough input that they continue to evolve, but “they’re primarily hired and paid the amount of money they are because they’re a complete product.”

At a certain point in your career development, he said, “You’ve had your influences, you’ve had your experiences, you’ve developed, and then you have to be giving that wisdom to others, and pulling them along.”

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