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Jensen Huang's 14-hour days and workaholic lifestyle helped him turn Nvidia into a $3 trillion company

Jyoti Mann   

Jensen Huang's 14-hour days and workaholic lifestyle helped him turn Nvidia into a $3 trillion company
  • Jensen Huang's 14-hour workday begins after he wakes up at 6 a.m. and exercises.
  • The Nvidia CEO has an engaged leadership style with 60 direct reports, which he says empowers others.

Running a $3 trillion company comes with early morning starts — just ask Jensen Huang.

The Nvidia founder and CEO recently said that he wakes up at 6 a.m.

Huang, who's one of the longest-serving tech CEOs, starts his day by exercising before embarking on a 14-hour workday, according to The Financial Times.

Bloomberg's Billionaires Index places him as the 13th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $106 billion, up $62 billion since the start of the year.

Being that rich brings its burdens, it seems. He told last year's New York Times DealBook Summit: "I don't wake up proud and confident — I wake up worried and concerned."

That's because Nvidia almost went bankrupt in the late 1990s — a memory he says is hard to shake off.

The company hit a $3 trillion valuation for the first time this week, making it only the third to reach that milestone after Microsoft and Apple. Nvidia's stock surge since the start of 2023 has been driven by demand for its chips, which are vital for AI applications.

Huang also has very high standards. In a recent interview with "60 Minutes," Huang said the description of him being "demanding, perfectionist, not easy to work for," fitted him perfectly.

Here's a look at how Nvidia's CEO spends his time and his leadership style.

Huang works holidays but finds it relaxing

At 61 years old, Huang doesn't seem to be showing signs of slowing down anytime soon and he certainly isn't workshy.

Nicolai Tangen, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management, who interviewed Huang last year, said he asked him how much he works. On the "20VC" podcast in March, Tangen said Huang told him, "'Nicolai, there is hard work and then there's insanely hard work.'"

Tangen added that Huang said he works every weekday and every holiday, and that he relaxes all the time because he loves what he does.

In fact, he embraces a workaholic lifestyle.

"I work from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. I work seven days a week. When I'm not working, I'm thinking about working, and when I'm working, I'm working. I sit through movies, but I don't remember them because I'm thinking about work."

Huang's been vocal in the past about how struggle and pain is character-building and helps to achieve greatness.

At Stripe's Sessions conference in April, Huang said some people think the "best jobs are the ones that bring you happiness all the time," but he doesn't agree with that take.

Huang thinks it takes suffering and struggle to "really appreciate what you've done."

He eats in the company cafeteria to connect with employees

Huang also takes time to talk to staff: "People are surprised how much time I spend eating in the cafeteria, whether it's lunch or dinner, people are surprised how much I spend in meetings of all kinds with all the employees."

His emphasis on communication allows him to get back to what he sees as primary role — being the "custodian of the culture."

Unlike many Big Tech CEOs, Huang thinks you can't do that if you're constantly doing press interviews.

"If you want to be the custodian of the culture you can't do it through CNN or do it via Forbes magazine articles. You have to do it 1% of the time unfortunately, or large crowds at a time, so I spend my time that way."

He has 60 direct reports

Huang is known for his engaged leadership style and has about 60 direct reports, he told the Stripe Sessions conference. He also encourages people across the company to send him the five top things on their minds.

"I don't do one-on-ones, my staff is quite large, and almost everything I say, I say to everybody all at the same time."

In his view, that helps with problem-solving and allows others to learn by giving them "equal access to information" and hearing "the reasoning of the solution," which in turn "empowers people."

Huang told Stanford School of Business that CEOs should have the most people reporting directly to them in an organization because they can help to "lead other people to achieve greatness, inspire, empower other people."

He sometimes clears his calendar to get time back

Speaking to Stanford University students in 2003, the Nvidia chief said he tried to spend his time on areas he thinks will have a long-lasting influence on the company.

"As a CEO, your time is not always yours and so you need to have the discipline to make it yours," he told them.

"I'll often come into the office and tell my admin to clear my calendar so that I can have that time back and oftentimes, you also come to the conclusion that as a CEO not sleeping is a good choice. That's always a good option, it creates more time when you don't sleep."

Huang said one area he spends time on is product planning and strategy planning, which he enjoys "a great deal."

Nvidia declined to comment.

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