Business stories
Oct 28, 20194 min read

Here’s why everyone at Klarna is a leader.

Profile Anna

by Anna Selander

Klarna’s 8 leadership principles.

That’s not just a slogan, it’s something we really believe. And I should know; I work with developing people here at Klarna. When I’ve had the chance to meet candidates who seek to join our revolutionary company, it’s the number one quality that I’m looking for. But I’m often met with skepticism. Take Kim for example.

“You really mean everyone?” she asks with a quizzical expression.
“Yes”, I insist, “How can Klarna be a leader if we’re just a bunch of followers!? We want everybody to be prepared to break new ground and make a mark.”

(And then I get to the good bit)

“That’s why we’ve established key behaviors that help everyone be successful in uncovering every part of their leadership identity. We call them our eight Leadership Principles and they embody Klarna’s startup spirit and our rebel soul.”

“In true Klarna fashion, we worked and reworked them until we had the perfect formula. Our Klarnauts are our stars and when they are successful, Klarna can continue to disrupt the market and challenge the traditional banks.” I now had Kim’s interest as I continued to go through the list of principles:

  • Customer obsession
  • Deliver results
  • Let the team shine
  • Start small and learn fast
  • Challenge status quo
  • Courage
  • Detailed thinkers
  • Hire and develop exceptional talent

Each principle might seem self-explanatory at first, but they are broken down further into specific steps to support each employee at Klarna in their leadership journey. That means there’s always something we can improve upon and there’s always areas we can develop.

And while they’re powerful things alone, the magic is in combining them together.

The story behind the creation of our Leadership Principles might surprise you. There was no big crisis or downturn in the market that forced us to figure out a better way of working. Quite the opposite. The company was doing great, growing by 40% year on year. But as Klarna grew, we started to fear that we would become slow and bureaucratic. So by carefully looking at what our best people were already doing and combining that with inspiration from a few successful tech companies, we managed to pull together a razor sharp set of behaviors. An antidote for bureaucracy and a guide for making sure we are at the forefront of our industry.

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool to work at a company that focuses on personal and professional values. Klarna wants everyone to be true to their values and to come to work as they are. The leadership principles are a natural extension of human behavior. To me they say: “Simplify at every opportunity” or “Welcome, respect and include people from different backgrounds” or “Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new things”.

We use our leadership principles all the time at Klarna. They are our start up spirit, our entrepreneurial brain and our rebel heart. We apply them when we interview and onboard new people, when we problem solve, promote, reward and so forth.

One of the greatest things about Klarna’s Leadership Principles is that when you learn the behaviors, you naturally learn the dynamic start-up mindset. No wonder that other companies are trying to recruit from Klarna on a daily basis! Our employees are stars!

And what happened to Kim? Well, she now works in one of our 300+ teams and is dedicated to developing our consumer app. She seems to really like our quest to disrupt the banking industry because she’s already brought five former colleagues to Klarna!

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