'It is a very lonely job': Mark Zuckerberg and other top CEOs reveal what their jobs are really like in 'Freakonomics' podcast series

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • “Freakonomics Radio” is launching a six-part series called “The Secret Life of CEOs,” featuring interviews with nine prominent executives.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, and others discuss what their jobs actually involve, whether their pay is fair, and what it feels like to be at the top.
  • Female interviewees discuss the lingering challenges facing women who hope to rise the corporate ladder.

A podcast series focused on illuminating the “hidden side of everything” is setting its sights on the corner office.

“Freakonomics Radio” has revealed to Business Insider that it will be launching a new six-part series called “The Secret Life of CEOs” on Thursday, January 18. The series features interviews with nine prominent executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Episodes will touch on a variety of topics related to life at the top of the corporate ladder: what propels some people to the rank of CEO (and not others), whether CEOs get paid too much, and what the day-to-day job of being CEO actually entails.

“Most of us hear about CEOs only when something very bad or very good happens,” Stephen Dubner, the host of “Freakonomics Radio,” said in a statement. “We wanted to know what’s going on the other 99.9% of the time.”

Stephen dubner headshotAudrey Bernstein‘Freakonomics Radio’ host Stephen Dubner.

In tandem with the CEO interviews, the new show incorporates insight from academics who study the habits of successful people. The experts shed light on the persistent challenge of gender inequality at the top and what it’s like to transition out of the role of CEO, among other topics.

Many of the interviews become refreshingly candid at times, as the CEOs discuss sensitive points throughout their careers.

“I got so broke then I had to borrow $US4,000 from my dad,” Bridgewater CEO Ray Dalio said, recounting the aftermath of the stock market crash in 1982. “And then letting go people who were like extended family – and it was literally down to me. That was a very painful experience but it was one of the best experiences that happened in my life because it changed my perspective from thinking, ‘I’m right,’ to asking myself, ‘How do I knowI’m right?'”

Interviews with female CEOs such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, and Carol Bartz, formerly of Yahoo!, center on the “#MeToo” movement and the lack of representation in the executive community.

“This kind of idea of pattern-matching can become very toxic,” Ellen Pao, the former interim CEO of Reddit said, referring to the trend of firms historically hiring white men from Harvard or Stanford for their leadership roles. “They invested in those folks, and then those folks ended up becoming successful – kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Other interviewees reflect on the lesser-discussed downsides to being in the ultimate position of power.

“People don’t talk about this a lot, but it is a very lonely job,” Bartz said. Especially from the position of a female executive, she added, life as a CEO can be disheartening. “Have you noticed that there’s less females in the Fortune 500 now than there were? I mean, we have made no progress! We have made absolutely no progress.”

“Freakonomics Radio” launched in 2009 as an extension of the mega-hit book, “Freakonomics,” which Dubner co-wrote with University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt. A sequel, “Superfreakonomics,” soon followed to similar acclaim.

Listen to the first episode here:

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.