Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Bryan Roberts , a partner at Venrock, a venture capital firm, sees problems as opportunities. To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
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What were your early years like?
I was born in Manhattan, and we lived on the Upper East Side until I was about five. We moved after an incident when I was walking my bike to Central Park with my mom, and I got hit by a taxi.
I was fine, but the bike was a bit mangled. I have this memory of looking up at a fender. Soon after, my mom said, “We’re out of here.”
We moved to Alpine, N.J., just north of the George Washington Bridge. It was in the middle of 300 acres of woods, and there were about ten families or so that rented places around there. We were just a bunch of kids rambling around.
I loved problem solving as a kid. That’s probably the thread through most of my life. How do you build this? How do I get from here to there? The actual content of the problem matters less than the need to puzzle through something.
Tell me more about your parents.
My dad is an infectious-disease doctor, and my mom is in theater. They’re the two most polar-opposite people in the universe. My mom’s broadly intelligent, and my dad is just deeply awesome at diagnosing diseases.
How have they influenced your leadership style?
The biggest thing is thinking about others more than yourself. In my line of work, if you put your company ahead of you, you’re going to do fine. And I try to always interact with people who put other people front and center, rather than themselves.
People who are self-directed generally gather accomplishments and accolades and are very happy to tell you about them. When people are company- or mission-directed, it manifests as humility, and they generally push credit off onto other people.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.