CEO of Getty Images Advises Against ‘Fiddling Over the Small Stuff’

Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Jonathan Klein, the CEO of Getty Images, talked to The New York Times about leadership and hiring. Considering many of us rely on Getty Images to include photos with our stories, it’s interesting to note the executive was pretty candid about his initial background in…wait for it…investment banking! It seems like he had an entrepreneurial spirit all along which probably bode well for his current role.

Describing himself as a rebel early in life, Klein recalled challenging authorities. “It’s partially my personality and partially my upbringing. Because of growing up in South Africa, I associated authority with bad stuff. So whenever somebody told me to do something or not to do something, I would challenge it”

As for leadership, he recommended not sweating the small stuff.

Anytime someone came to me to show me their work, I would critique it. I would almost behave like a schoolteacher — my mother was a teacher — and bring out the metaphorical red pen. And what I didn’t appreciate at the time is that before you mess around the edges, you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘Am I going to make this significantly better, or am I going to make it only 5 or 10 percent better?’ Because in fiddling over the small stuff, you take away all the empowerment. Basically it no longer becomes that person’s work. And after a while, those people get into the habit of giving you incomplete work, and then you have to do it for them.”

Having built the company from start-up mode to 2,000 employees, the candid CEO said titles don’t matter and that you “have to find ways to get people to do things because they think it’s the right thing to do, and so you need to explain the reasons behind your decisions.”

Expanding the company included acquiring other ones. Since people felt like they belonged to the original company and not Getty Images, he wrote seven leadership principles: Trustworthiness, tranasparency, and openness; the obligation to care; lead by example; raise the bar; one voice, collective responsibility; bring me solutions; no silos.

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