Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify — The Art of Seeing Around Corners, Two-Year Missions, Top Books, and the Essence of Fire Soul (#484)

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We believe that speed of iteration beats quality of iteration, which is why we’re not big on bureaucracy.

— Daniel Ek

Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) is the founder, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of directors of Spotify, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service, with 320M users, including 144M subscribers, across 92 markets.

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#484: Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify — The Art of Seeing Around Corners, Two-Year Missions, Top Books, and the Essence of Fire Soul


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Want to hear an episode that can help clarify how Shopify and Spotify differ in leadership? Check out my conversation with Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lütke, in which we discuss feedback as a gift, fostering a growth mindset, the impact of dyslexia on Tobi’s reading list and coding endeavors, understanding “the next box,” why the business world should be keeping a close eye on the video game industry, Enneagrams, and much more.

#359: Tobi Lütke — From Snowboard Shop to Billion-Dollar Company



  • Connect with Daniel Ek:

Spotify | Twitter | LinkedIn


Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • What’s the origin story of Daniel’s Twitter handle, @eldsjal?
  • In what context does the Swedish word “lagom” (which means something akin to just right) get used often at Spotify–a company immersed in both Swedish and American culture?
  • Does Daniel think he was born eldsjäl, or was it something he picked up along the way?
  • As a parent, does Daniel favor raising his children with the guaranteed social safety net his own European upbringing provided–which allowed him the freedom to tinker without worrying about food and shelter–or a more hands-off American approach that necessitates some level of success in order to survive? Is there a happy medium?
  • As someone who reads “north of 60 or 70 books” per year, what is it about Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist that makes them particularly memorable and influential to Daniel?
  • There was a time when Daniel let his health fall by the wayside and he weighed 40 or 50 pounds more than he does today. What helped him turn things around and get back to a more ideal weight?
  • While Daniel hasn’t been one to shy away from 100-hour workweeks when necessary, one of his defining characteristics is knowing how to prioritize focus. What impact does this have on his typical schedule?
  • How does Daniel approach the concept of roles in a given meeting, and why is it important to be clear on those roles beforehand?
  • What do Daniel’s annual reviews with his immediate leadership team look like, and how do they address the rapid pace of change Spotify has experienced thus far and expects to continue over the years to come?
  • As CEO, what does Daniel view as the most crucial components of his job, and what allows him to perform them optimally?
  • Spotify and Shopify are two completely different entities, and so are their CEOs. How does Daniel compare and contrast his company, culture, and leadership with that of our mutual friend, Shopify’s Tobi Lütke?
  • Are there any biographies that stand out for Daniel?
  • Favorite books on management.
  • Daniel shares some tough-to-hear feedback he got from someone on his leadership team and what it taught him about being mindful of the value he’s adding (or not adding) to his interactions.
  • Rather than defining static jobs within Spotify, the company prefers to assign missions to staff that last about two years. What have Daniel’s two-year missions entailed?
  • How does Daniel ensure he stays on target when he’s working to fulfill a mission? How has his process adapted over time?
  • What does Daniel mean when he says: “We believe that speed of iteration beats quality of iteration?”
  • What is Brilliant Minds, and how did it start?
  • How and why Daniel dedicates a significant portion of his wealth to “moonshots” across Europe.
  • What would Daniel’s billboard say?
  • Parting thoughts.