Key Lesson: It’s possible to take a principled stand and engage in productive dialogue.
When Fortune magazine named singer Taylor Swift the most powerful woman in the world earlier this year (she was No. 6 overall), there was a lot of skepticism. But the creators of the list stuck to their guns, noting that Swift exemplifies a new model of leadership — one in which leaders influence a wide array of groups over which they have no real authority. Viewed through that lens, Swift’s leadership has been indisputable.
In addition to inspiring young men and women alike with her writing and performance chops, Swift has also built a solid reputation as a savvy business person. Last year, she removed her music catalogue from Spotify, telling Yahoo! Music that the service feels “a bit like a grand experiment…and I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music.”
This week, Swift took a similar stand against Apple when the company announced plans to offer its new music streaming platform free of charge for a three month trial period — a period during which artists, writers and producers would go unpaid. Swift politely took her case to Tumblr, calling the move by Apple “shocking” and “disappointing.” She went on to make it clear that this wasn’t about her: “This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself…This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.”
By collecting and connecting the dots for Apple — and creating an empathic connection between innovators — Swift was able to persuade the company to change course. “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists,” Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue tweeted over this past weekend, “Apple will always make sure that artists are paid.” If there were any lingering doubts about Swift’s place on Fortune’s list, they can now be put to rest. After all, Swift just calmly and respectfully stared down No. 1 on the list: Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Taylor Swift is our Grounded Leader of the Week for bringing civility and clarity to a highly charged situation, and for ensuring that her fellow artists and producers will be compensated fairly in the process.