Jefferies CEO Richard Handler says people should embrace the haters in his advice to wannabe leaders. ‘This means you are doing something really right.’

  • Richard Handler, chief exec of Jefferies, wrote 100 things he wished he knew before becoming CEO.
  • ‘Larger competitors will denigrate, belittle and badmouth you every chance they get.
  • ‘In an email with Insider, Handler explained how naysayers can be a source of “motivation.”

When larger rivals start hating on Jefferies, says Richard Handler, CEO of investment bank Jefferies, he knows he’s doing his job right.

In an Instagram post, Handler listed 100 things he wishes he had known before becoming CEO of Jefferies in 1990. Among them was advice to his younger self to embrace the haters, especially if they come from larger competitors.

“Larger competitors will denigrate, belittle, and badmouth you every chance they get.” This means you’re doing something really well,” he said in tip No. 86.

That was followed by another apparent dig at his bulge bracket rivals:

“It’s especially entertaining when larger competitors disparage your firm while you continue to hire their best employees.”

Of course, Handler admits in his advice that embracing hatred is often easier said than done.

“It is personal, no matter what anyone tells you,” he said in tip No. 51. “And that’s fine and proper.”

In an email with Insider, Handler elaborated on taking things personally. “When you care as much as I and our people do, it’s difficult not to take great offense,” he said. Then I just think that we’re all working really hard to accomplish something we believe in, and the naysayers are often unhappy people who aren’t on a mission they’re proud of. Instead of depressing you, it eventually motivates you. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but the world is complicated. That being said, I’m not complaining. I’d rather be me, and our company would rather be us.”

He has emerged as one of the most active Wall Street CEOs on social media. On his Instagram, for example, you’ll find not only posts about Jefferies events and stock exchange summits, but also pictures of him at the beach with family, playfully photoshopped into a Puma ad with Selena Gomez, or sitting courtside with Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott.

He also told Insider that he creates all of his own social media content. “Everyone asks if I manage my own social media, and for better or worse, the answer is yes.” It takes very little time, which is probably why it is sloppy, but to me, the content is more important than the form.”

“I think by sharing a small part of my private life, it lets people know what we stand for and who we are,” he told Insider in an email.

Handler has been with global investment bank Jefferies for over 33 years, the last 23 as CEO. He took over at 39, when Jefferies was almost entirely a riskless cash equities trading boutique with about $7 million in annual net earnings, according to Handler. Today, the firm has more than 40 offices worldwide, approximately 5,300 employees, and a $60 billion balance sheet.

In his Instagram post, he admitted to making numerous mistakes during that time. When asked for more details, he said, “I’ve literally made every mistake in the book, including hiring a small number of the wrong people, doing deals we wish we hadn’t done, missteps on culture and strategic priorities, dealing with false short attacks, and so on.”

He advised focusing on the overall growth rather than the mistakes. “Nothing is ever perfect, and there is always room for improvement, but if you surround yourself with the right partners, together build the right culture, focus on the right priorities (people and clients), and protect your financial foundation, you can help create a very special company in the long run.”

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