Brayden Haws

March 19, 2022

Lead Like Barry McCarthy


Netflix. Spotify. And maybe Peloton?

What do these 3 companies have in common aside from having industry shifting business models?

It’s the man behind those models.

He helped Netflix figure out subscriptions.

He developed Spotify’s ad business and oversaw their direct listing.

And now Peloton hopes he can lead them to long-term success.

Barry McCarthy has become a sort of hero  to  many people in tech. Initially, this was because of his business and financial savvy, for turning good businesses into juggernauts. But as time has gone on, his leadership is what has risen to the forefront of peoples’ admiration for him.

The most recent example was when he was brought into Peloton to take over as CEO. This followed some radical announcements including: a halt in production, a massive layoff, and activist investors calling for the ouster of the current CEO and founder. Most people would stay as far away from that situation as possible. But Barry actually reached out to them and literally said “put me in coach”.

Walking into a tricky situation, he put together a master class of leadership in his welcome email. It’s definitely worth the time to read the entire thing. But most worth highlighting are the leadership principles he lays out at the end.

 1. Be stubborn on vision, flexible on details
 2. Fast is as slow as we go
 3. Intuition drives testing. Data drives decision making
 4. Your comfort zone is your worst enemy
 5. Talent density is foundational
 6. Stress context not control, freedom and responsibility
 7. Understand in order to be understood
 8. Get real
 9. Think from first principles
10. Put first things first

One of the most powerful takeaways from my time in graduate school, was the need for leaders to codify and publish their leadership principles. Barry models this practice perfectly in this email. He lets every employee (and all of us) know how he will lead, how he will prioritize, how he will make decisions. And by laying these principles out so clearly, he gives each employee the ability to act just as he would. Aligning everyone in the same direction, an alignment that will be needed to get Peloton back on track and to the next level.

Time will tell how Peloton turns out, but based on past, it's very likely they will find their version of video subscription and streaming music.

Bonus: If you listen to the Acquired podcast then you probably already knew most of what I said above. If you’re not a listener you should be. Here’s links to catch up on all 3 companies mentioned above:

Also if you want to see leadership in action, you should watch this interview that Barry gave to his high school.
The biggest thing I saw in this was a model for authenticity and candor. He has probably heard similar questions a million times. But instead of spouting off a canned, PR prepped answer, Barry took time to pause and contemplate each one before delivering a genuine response. This is something we should all strive to model in our own work.

About Brayden Haws

Healthcare guy turned tech wannabe. Doing product stuff at Grow. Building Utah Product Guild⚒️. Constantly tinkering on my 🛻. Occasionally writing poor takes on product strategy and technology⬇️.

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