Humble leadership creates an inclusive environment

A few weeks ago, Amy Edmundson (Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School) spoke with the managers of Spotify about her new research, which ended in her book, The Fearless Organization.

Amy’s previous research and book ‘Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Competitive in the Knowledge Economy’ has given me the direction to rethink team dynamics in an inclusive environment. The work focuses on how people can come together quickly and sometimes temporarily to solve new problems. The focus of this particular study was to determine what conditions were needed for those groups to succeed. With the understanding that many corporations reward individual competition, which sometimes hinders collaboration and the need for ‘teaming’ to meet the most difficult challenges in today’s business, Amy’s research asks the question in our Spotify HR: What needs to change to ensure teamwork?

Edmonson distinguishes stable parties from groupings. A stable team like your favorite sports team, made up of limited individuals, who know each other’s abilities and skills and are equipped with predefined game plans. Each person is interdependent to achieve a unique sharing goal – to win! ‘Teaming’ is better defined as a group that is like a pick-up game as opposed to an established sports team. In a pick-up game (or team situation), you can already discover the skills of your peers while doing the task, in this case while playing. You still want to win, but it requires a different mindset while playing – learn and play at the same time.

In Spotify, where one of our values ​​is ‘collaboration’, the concept of teamwork is involved in how we work. Teaming gives us the opportunity to bring people together to work across borders and status. For example, those who work, those who have different knowledge, experience and skills to work, those who value diversity. So, what is the key factor that unites a group of people from different backgrounds and any other dimension of diversity and makes them successful? Humility.

It means being humble in the face of change, open and curious about what the other person brings to the team, willing to try something new, take risks and learn quickly. Being humble means that your own skills do not come in the way of listening openly. Humble leaders are motivated to create an inclusive environment. Why? Because to create an environment of inclusion, leaders need to be open to learning from their team members – even those with less experience, less tenure, or less academic degrees. The members of this group probably understand the buyer in a certain and different way than the leader. Many studies have proven that innovation takes place in an inclusive environment, where leaders are willing to try something new even if the idea is not theirs. And the inclusive environment allows people to talk and hope.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her HBR essay ‘Creating a culture where employees speak’, said, “We all want to work for leaders who truly value our input. We are looking for a‘ speak-up culture ’যে the kind of workplace we We feel welcome and inclusive, free to express our views and opinions, and confident that our ideas will be heard and recognized. “

The reason people don’t speak is not a lack of self-confidence, but a fear created in most control and command cultures. While working at an insurance company, I studied research on safety and preventable accidents, and all the bibliography indicates that in most cases, workers near the accident (in a factory, on a ship or on an airplane) knew it could happen, knew the root cause, even How to solve the problem, and most of them to talk, was afraid to raise.

In our work at Spotify, how can we implement the pillars of ‘teaming’ and a ‘speak-up culture’? I took some pillars and shared how we manage them in messaging and activities:

Humility: From the beginning, in the onboarding process, each new band member receives The Band Manifesto with an important quote from Daniel Eck, “We have no patience for arrogance.”. The tone is set up from above, humility expected.

Different skill standards: Being a collaborator in one of our five values, we say: Each is an integral part of what we do with equal opportunity to participate – we share ideas and best practices across business units and despite the traditional thematic hierarchy..

Avoid conflicts of professional culture: Another of our values ​​is sincere, we say: We don’t have time for internal politics. We lead with transparency. So if you’re into tech, product management or financing, there’s no excuse “this is how we do it in our organization”.

Curious about the abilities and experiences of others: We strongly believe that diversity will lead to a better product for our users and manufacturers, but we can only accept diversity if we are interested and interested in learning from each other.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, these are all nice words that any company can hang on the wall of their lobby … How are you actually providing the terms ‘teaming’ and ‘speak-up culture’? How is this displayed in your team’s day-to-day work?

In the midst of big decisions, a newcomer or a term band member can observe Swedish values ​​reflected on humility, openness of learning and transparency and accountability. Power in everyday interactions is not based on hierarchy – internally, we identify ourselves through our work, not by our titles or levels. We’re all encouraged to question anyone in the company; Most documents are shared extensively and you can get questions or comments from any band member, even those who may not be involved in the work but are interested in the subject. All voices are precious.

Another way we create space to support the culture of speaking is through monthly unplugged sessions with our founder and CEO Daniel, which includes company finances, new products, industry insights and some personal questions (usually about music or sports). These hour-long meetings create an open and respectful dialogue among employees around the world. In this meeting, as well as our regular Town Hall and All Hands, it is fair to say on behalf of the leaders that they do not know the answer and will return to the audience later – we do not make the answer, we are even polite and transparent which we do not know.

At Spotify, there is no work in the silo, so we bring band members from different units together while working on the company’s bet or creating cultural moments. Empowered Recommend and work on solutions. Titles, levels, and taxonomy never get in the way of a great idea. Xteam (cross-functional team) members are each humble, interested in each other’s abilities, overcoming professional and cultural challenges, inspiring each other in new ways to create products for our users and this way of working can only be successful by our manufacturers.

In this way of working, confidence is more important than control, it expects no politics, and no fear of talking. Because we all know that fear not only kills faith, but it also kills innovation.

Head of Equity and Impact



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Elizabeth joined the band in March 2021, led by Equity and Impact, where she was responsible for diversity, inclusion and relationships, social impact and sustainability.

Prior to Spotify, Elizabeth was Amazon’s global head of diversity, equity and inclusion. Elizabeth previously worked in diversity and inclusion, learning and development, and talent management at MetLife, Marsh, and Citigroup. He has experience managing global and regional organizations that operate extensively in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Born and raised in Argentina, Elizabeth is committed to her work at a nonprofit organization that helps young people develop underdeveloped talents and at-risk adolescents, as a board member of The Opportunity Network, the All Stars Project and a fair shake for young people. . In 2018, Crane’s NY added Elizabeth to the financial list of notable women. In 2019 and 2020, ALPFA recognized him as one of the top 50 Latinos in the United States

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