• Toby Sinclair

Leadership Lessons: Spotify Daniel Ek

Updated: Jul 6


Spotify Daniel Ek

Another great episode of The Tim Ferris Show. This time with CEO of Spotify Daniel Ek.



Here are 5 lessons learned from CEO Spotify Daniel Ek.


  1. Be clear on your role in meetings

  2. The leadership approach that got you here, won't get you there.

  3. Make authenticity your leadership style

  4. Manage constraints to enable creativity

  5. Share strategic context


Be clear on your role in meetings


Daniel shares a great example of why it's important to be clear on your role in meetings. Inspired by Silicon Valley leaders Daniel would lead the Spotify Product review meetings. The intention that Daniel could help drive good decisions through the organisation. Although Daniel had good intentions these meetings turned out to be a disaster. A Spotify Product Leader pulled Daniel aside after one particularly tough meeting and shared that everyone hated the sessions.


After some soul searching, Daniel decided to take a different approach and let the team run the meetings. As a result, the team performance improved. Daniel learned that especially as the CEO you need to be clear on your role in the meetings. Are you there to decide, to be consulted or to be informed? Daniel takes a leadership style to empower the team to make as many decisions as possible.


I think many people always think that if you’re the CEO, your job is always to be the approver in the meeting. But I find if you have a great team, that’s not at all the role that you should have.

CEO Spotify Daniel Ek


The leadership approach that got you here, won't get you there.


When organisations go through rapid change, different leadership styles are needed at each stage. Daniel reflects in the podcast about his own journey:


I’m probably on my eighth job at Spotify

CEO Spotify Daniel Ek



Organisations go through different stages such as start-up and scale-up. You need different leadership styles for various stages.


For example, it's very different between managing a small team with 8 individual contributors vs managing 8 managers each with their own teams.


Make authenticity your leadership style


The best leadership style is authenticity. Instead of trying to copy other leaders focus on what is true to you. This is where leaders must invest time building self-awareness of their values, beliefs and strengths.


I think the leadership style that you ultimately have has to be authentic to who you are

CEO Spotify Daniel Ek



Manage constraints to enable creativity


Daniel sees his role as providing enabling constraints to the organisation. Without these constraints, the organisation will lose alignment. Daniel also strongly believes that constraints are required for creativity. They are not optional.



Share strategic context


Daniel focuses on providing strategic context so that his leaders can succeed. This strategic context includes insights on competitors, the industry at large, what other people are doing across the company, macro-economic trends. In Empowered by Marty Cagan he also shares that Strategic Context is key for leaders.


I was approaching management more from a control mindset. I thought I needed to control the prioritization of the product, and I realized instead I needed to share more context to enable them to make better prioritizations themselves.

CEO Spotify Daniel Ek


In Empowered by Marty Cagan he also shares that Strategic Context is key for leaders.


Here are the Six types of strategic context Marty explains:


  • Company Mission - The purpose of the company.

  • Company Scorecard - Key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide an understanding of the overall picture and health of the business

  • Company Objectives - Specific objectives the company is focused on for this year.

  • Product Vision and Principles - The product vision is how we hope to meet customers needs.

  • Team Topology - Describes how each Product team will organise to deliver value.

  • Product Strategy - Specifically how we'll meet customer needs in ways that work for the business.


Spotify Daniel Ek Recommended Books


Here are two books recommended by Daniel in the Podcast