Is “CEO’s Disease” Really a Good Thing for Your Business or Career?!

I was watching a great Ted Talk given my Cameron Herhold (former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK) last night which mentioned that many successful CEO’s and Entrepreneurs have bi-polar disorder (manic depression).  In fact,  this phenomenon is so common that many business writers & bloggers refer to it as “CEO’s disease.”  This whole idea really surprised me, so I dug a little deeper to find out who has it and how they’ve managed to accomplish so much despite their condition.

An article by Richard Elsberry says that bi-polar disorder was common among some of the most creative people in history including: Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Paul Gauguin, George Handel, Gustav Mahler, Cole Porter, and Winston Churchill. Other articles I found claim that Steve Jobs, Ted Turner, Bill Liechtenstein, and all 3 founders of Netscape show signs or were properly diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

Mr. Herhold suggests in one of his articles that Bipolar Disorder helps people run successful companies because, “in their highest moments they dare to dream, and in their lowest moments they confront the most bleak and problematic parts of the company instead of avoiding them.”

Tim Ferriss (author of The Four Hour Work Week) writes about “CEO’s Disease” on his blog in an article called, “Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression: Making the Rollercoaster Work for You.”  He even showed a “transition curve” (shown above) and suggests actions to take (and not to take) while in different stages of the “mania” curve.  For example, if you’re feeling manic don’t do anything with the budget or money- you won’t spend wisely.  If you’re feeling down, make projections, plan the budget because you’ll be cautious.  If you’re in a state of serious identity crisis, Tim recommends cleaning out cabinets or going for a walk- anything simple to get out of your rut.

  • Does your boss or CEO seem to have some of the symptoms of Manic Depression/Bi-Polar disorder?  How do you deal with it? 
  • Do you think Steve Jobs was bi-polar?  How do you think it helped him create so many products that “changed people’s lives?”
  • Do you think the association of CEO’s, creative geniuses and successful entrepreneurs will help lift the social stigma of manic depression and bi-polar disorder?

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.