Morten Therkildsen

A highly experienced Crowd Safety Manager who had his first job in the events industry when he was 8 and loves a nice glass of wine with friends.

Morten is the daily manager of RF Experience – a Crowd Management company owned by Roskilde Festival, where he is also the Head of Security, Health & Safety. RF Experience provides safety at approximately 200 shows a year, and also offer training and consultancy within crowd safety management.

Morten is an educated Crowd Safety Manager from Bucks New University and is currently studying for a Masters in Crowded Places and Public Safety Management at Coventry.

Welcome to the Leadership Interview, Morten.

How do you start your day?

I try to sleep in late, as I often have late night meetings. But normally that is difficult as the day has to start ????.  I go for a short walk with the dog, and then off to the office, which is on the other side of the street from where I live. A consequence of working many hours, and by moving in next to the office I, at least, save on transportation time.

What was your first job, and what is the worst job you’ve ever done?

My first job in the events industry was when I was 8 years old; I started in a circus for youth.  This led to me starting a small circus troop performing in the streets of Denmark as a 13 year old boy. My first festival task was selling candy at a festival in 1993.

The worst job I have ever done depends upon how you look at it. I was head of security at an event once, where a person died, and his friend got injured, as they fell from the roof of a building that was an approved viewing area. That is a hard thing to live with. Fortunately, I have a good team and a lovely wife around me, who supported me right after that incident.

Another one was a high-risk football match where the police were fighting the fans.  Afterwards me and my assistant (I was the manager for that area) went into the crowd to calm people down. In the crowd, we met a person who asked us to look down at his foot. As we did, he lifted his foot and revealed he was standing on a gun, that a police officer had lost in the fight.

What advice would you give to others about furthering their careers?

Make sure you get an equal amount of experience and theory. So many people have never worked at an event, or have no theory as they’ve only worked at events. The combination is important. Also, make sure you have great people around you. This industry tends to take all of your time, so without a loving and understanding family, and without good people to motivate you, it’s not the right industry to be in.

Who inspires you and why?

I have many inspirations within the industry; Pascal Viot at Paleo Festival and Ralf Zimme & Sabine Funk at IBIT are my main ones within the industry as they are extremely skilled within their line of work, and I find them inspirational.

Chris Kemp from MOM as he is a mentor. His way of asking and supporting me always makes me feel like an equal, although he knows a lot more than I do.

And Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller as I find it impressive how he has built the major business of Maersk, and his leadership approach.

Finally, I think our own CEO, Signe Lopdrup, is inspirational. She is very skilled, and in these times where events are cancelled due to COVID19, I find her very inspirational.

Do you think a talent to lead is nature or nurture?

I believe it is a part of ones nature, or maybe something you learn very early in your years. You can adjust the style and skills based on experience and learning, but I believe it’s something you’re born with. Even adjusting can be very challenging. I have plenty of things I would love to adjust, however I often fall back to my basic natural skills.

How can a leader fail? Do you have a personal example?

My largest fear as a leader is to get stuck. Not in a project, but in development. Imagine working with the same task every day and not improving. I strive for higher learning and quality every day. Maybe a little too much, but I would rather leave my job than not develop my team and myself. Following the latest research and getting new knowledge is fundamental for keeping people safe.

So yes, a leader can fail. Who doesn’t? I can spend days nagging myself after not winning a contract, or not listening enough to a staff member. I can lay sleepless at nights worrying if we are on the right path or if our strategy should be adjusted. I can worry about the future and the possibility of getting the right staff or task – or if we get too much work and that affects our quality. In general, I think I’m fairly good at letting the work stay at the office, but I am very passionate about my job, and therefor also take things a little too personally – though I tend not to show it.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I have walked the floor and afterwards combined the practice with theory. My knowledge base of theory and practice is very high, as I think I push myself in what I expect from myself.

Unfortunately, being a strong leader and having a lot of knowledge, in my case also comes out sometimes as if I believe that my way is the only way. This is not correct. There is no right way within safety. Only the will to perform to a high standard and provide a well thought through job. But since I am a very strict communicator it often makes other people seem like that they shouldn’t disagree with me. Often when people have worked with me for a longer period they find out that I should be challenged and actually listen to others.

I don’t believe that I can do my work without trusting in my team, and that is one of my strong sides. I trust in them!

What do you find most challenging about being a leader?

Having the responsibility for other people’s lives – in terms of the audience at a show, but also my own staff. I worry if they experience something really bad, a terrible incident, whether they are able to cope with what they see and do.

I also find it challenging to push my team the right amount. I want to provide them with high quality and be prepared. I want them to develop themselves personally. But most of all I want them to really like working as a part of our team.

It’s a great balance between giving people space to develop and learn by their mistakes, and at the same time ensure and trust that their work is safe for others.

As a leader, it’s a great challenge to balance the amount of time involved in finding solutions for challenges “on the floor” and developing and preparing for the future.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud to have built an organization where we are a team of very skilled people who manage safety at shows to a very high quality. My staff are highly motivated and very good friends. I am proud to have contributed to making them do such good work. As a leader, I am no better than my team, and I am proud of my team. The team has helped me to improve myself and reach the position I am in now, and the path of development we are all walking.

Also, I am very proud of being a part of the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES). I am proud of being involved in a group that works hard to share knowledge, and I find myself, surrounded by people who accept my level of knowledge even though I look at most of them and find myself being a rookie.

What’s your biggest self-indulgence?

My work. I love my work and that means it’s a challenge to take time off. When I take time off I like spending time with my wife, Eva, and friends – and if you ask people around me – drinking wine.

For me it’s very relaxing opening a good bottle of wine, and preferably, sharing it with my wife or friends over a good conversation about life. I am a very sociable person, and I love spending time with others – drinking wine ????.

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