I just celebrated five years at HomeServe Membership. I was having a 1-2-1 this week with one of my teammates from the Frontline and they asked me a really good question: “If you could go back in time and give yourself leadership advice what would it be?” I really had to think about it for a while and decided to bring it back to something that I’m reminded of quite frequently when I listen to one of my favourite music tracks - Bob Dylan singing Like a Rolling Stone at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester back in 1966.
It is my favourite song, and this version is my favourite version, plus I love hearing a bit of history. Dylan was in the very early days of his electric phase and his traditional folk music fans were not happy at all. He has been taking quite a bit of abuse all night and Like a Rolling Stone is the finale. You can clearly hear someone in the audience shout “Judas” and there is lots of applause. He responds “I don’t believe you”. He pauses and then says “You’re a liar” in a way that makes you think he really means it and it is all getting a bit personal. He pauses again before turning to the band ordering them to “Play fucking loud.” The band – The Hawks - respond with everything and then he really puts his all into the lines like he is actually fighting the audience with the music. “How does it feel?” really stands out. Then it is finished and there is thunderous applause. The rest is as they say history. It is one of those seminal moments where a lot more people than can actually fit in that venue claim to have been there.
I think about this moment often as the song is in a lot of my playlists. Playing it loud is something leaders sometimes avoid. I’ve talked before about being the best version of myself but that means learning and changing as you go along. You stick to your core values but maybe as you get more experience some things just become more important. Early in my career I may have held back on something just to keep the peace or maybe I was willing to wait when actually I felt in my heart that something needed to happen right now. I’m at the point now where I put my all into it even if that means pushing People past those uncomfortable points. I can remember worrying about being wrong, and being seen to be wrong, but now admitting I was wrong is so easy as I’m so driven by what I see as important. This is not an ego trip but just a bit of clarity of purpose and that if I’m going to do something then I’m going to be all out. In a nice way one of my good friends at work likes to say that I’m exhausting to work with because I never stop caring, and talking about caring, and showing that I care.
So that’s my answer. If I could go back to a younger version of myself my advice would be to play it fucking loud.