09 November 2020

The Observer Effect: “Daniel Ek”

Candidly, that’s my role as leader: to coach others on how best to make use of their limited time. Not only is time the most precious resource the company has, it’s also the most precious resource they have! It’s crucial that they approach the use of their time with a holistic perspective. By way of example, I had a recent call with one of my directors who had not taken a vacation in six months. Our conversation delved into why this person thought that they could not be away for two weeks, and me arguing for why the person had to take two weeks to recharge!

There is never enough time – for work, for family and friends – and it takes work to make the best use of it. It’s all about fostering a holistic perspective in life.

This comes back to how you view your role as a leader. My job is to try to be value-add. If you think about a pyramid, there’s a fellow Swede who ran SAS, Scandinavian Airlines, who said the right way to think about leadership is you're not at the top of the pyramid. You should invert the pyramid and envision yourself as the guy at the bottom. You are there to enable all the work being done. That’s my mental image of what I’m here to do at Spotify.

Daniel Ek

Many interesting ideas and valid points in this interview with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, focused on leadership, workplace interactions and time management. I wish more managers around the world would think – and act – like this. I have encountered many how felt so indispensable that they would rarely delegate or share their responsibilities, for fear of losing their position, of losing control of the process and the outcome. By teaching new people instead, they could have more time to see the bigger picture, to learn new skills – and to have more leisure time as well.

Daniel Ek illustration by Eleanor Taylor
Illustration by Eleanor Taylor

His thoughts on the Silicon Valley founder myth are remarkable as well:

There’s no doubt that there are certainly amazingly talented founders. That said, I have heard people argue: is Jeff Bezos amazing because he's Jeff Bezos or is he amazing because he's been the CEO of Amazon for twenty years and he’s gained experience growing one of the largest companies in the world? I would say that yes, he's amazing, but this is due, in part, to that experience.

We have taken a slightly different approach to how we do this. It’s a tension to talk about editorial versus algorithms. Internally we call this “algotorial”. We think that it's actually quite beautiful to marry both. The best example is algorithms in their current incarnation – I know we can debate about where this will go – but my simple, layman's way of saying it: algorithms are very good at optimizing anything that you want to optimize. They are not very good at coming up with a creative solution when it's not clear how to express the problem. Culture often fits that. That's normal. Like if you've never seen something before, and you don't know what it is, how can an algorithm optimize it?

Post a Comment