Leadership Lessons from Harry Styles Blog Feature
Brian Stevenson

By: Brian Stevenson on May 27th, 2021

Leadership Lessons from Harry Styles

Just admit it, you secretly love Harry Styles. You’ve seen him in a dress on the cover of Vogue. You’ve seen him at the Grammys. You’ve seen him on Saturday Night Live and The Howard Stern Show. You’ve seen him in award-winning films. Your kids (or grandkids) rave about him and you want to as well.  

Yes, I know - at first glance, you pass him off as some pretty-faced millennial from the boy-band One Direction. I’ve been there. He’s not exactly Eddie Vedder (although they’re friends) or Stevie Nicks (although Nicks did compare her Rumours album to Harry’s Fine Line album). He was probably some spoiled rich kid growing up with connections to the music industry (nope) and is destined to be the next Justin Timberlake (wrong again).   

Then you run out of reasons to dismiss him and realize that Harry Styles is the epitome of what our world – and what your business – needs right now.  

A little over a year ago, we were in the first wave of the pandemic here in Canada. We were totally locked down, with no movement for 90 days. Literally…four of us on a Toronto-sized property, including two teenage daughters. After tripping over each other for weeks, we figured out how to work, how to learn, and how to better understand one another. Essentially, how to evolve. Enter Harry Styles on my daughter’s playlist. Turns out, he’s insanely cool and extremely relevant to us as business leaders. The list is endless, but here are 5 reasons why you may also want to be more like Harry:  

5 Reasons Leaders like Us Should be More like Harry Styles: 

  1. He makes space for mistakes, but not for abuse  
    Harry Styles notes at the beginning of his concerts “all are welcome here” regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or status. Abuse and discrimination are not tolerated within his community, and both Harry and his fans are not afraid to call it out. Even when he himself is not presented with kindness, he remains calm, courteous and professional as he pushes back. This modern and inclusive stance has been profitable, drawing millions of additional customers to his brand. 

    Now, flip the script and think how damaging and toxic old-school leadership has been in business. No industry can afford a top-down management structure, or a risk intolerant company culture. That thinking limits innovation.  Heck, the top-down management structure dates back to 1854. Seriously…1854! A study from Texas A&M University reports that employees spend more of their time taking risks when their leaders and managers are more tolerant and empathetic. In the midst of a pandemic, where every print reseller has been impacted, let’s encourage our employees to take risks in an effort to drive productivity and innovation.

    “Given second chances, I don't need all the answers”
    Treat People With Kindness

  2. Expand your offering and how you sell 
    If you’ve ever seen Harry Styles, you’ll agree that he is constantly challenging norms. Whether he’s opening up about his personal struggles or making history as the first solo male on the cover of the 128 year-old Vogue magazine, he is always 100% authentic. For sure this has left him open to criticism, but he has proven to be okay with experimenting with new ideas…and more often than not, these new ideas have paid off. 

    From a business perspective, we are facing unprecedented changes. This means finding new concentric circles of revenues. It also means embracing a new way of selling. The days of “wine them, dine them, and sign them” are thankfully ending. The days of wrapping more and more air into new hardware agreements are also ending. Your buyers are moving online, and they expect honesty and transparency. For any of you struggling with this transition, I’d strongly recommend reading They Ask. You Answer. by Marcus Sheridan.  It helps explain how these behaviors are shifting. Today, you are living through a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change. Don’t miss the chance to reinvent your business into one that is more flexible, more interconnected, more purposeful – and simply more human.

    “We don't know where we're going but we know where we belong.”
    Sweet Creature 

  3. Maintain self-awareness  
    Harry Styles appreciates he doesn’t have all the answers, and the speed at which he’s moving requires additional support. To help support his growth, Harry leverages a life coach/therapist to keep him grounded. It’s this self-awareness that kept him from abusing drugs or alcohol during his One Direction days, terrified of messing it up for the band. 

    We know old school leadership would frown upon any business coaching, even as you navigate your first pandemic where the unknowns far outweigh the knowns. The days of “Let me interrupt your expertise with my confidence” egos need to be retired. As a person that has leaned on a business coach for the past 15 years, they have been a critical component to my business as we are successfully navigating the pandemic. Our win-rates have never been higher. We didn’t furlough anyone. We expanded partnerships. And my employees, business coach and peer network have played key roles in those outcomes. As you exit the pandemic and the new world is laid in front of you, leverage a coach - or a trusted network. There are some great networks in our industry – from the MPSA to INTEC for the MPS resellers. I’m part of both and highly recommend if you’re open to peer networking.

    “It's getting crazy, I think I'm losing it, I think I'm losing it.”   

  4. Use your platform as a leader  
    Harry Styles makes a clear statement every time you see him. With his clothing. With his music. With his self-deprecating humor. There is nothing but grace and humility. As an influential public figure, rather than abuse his power, he uses it for the greater good, while at the same time not compromising his own desire to succeed in the industry. He is living proof that the two can go hand in hand. 

    Take a look at the next generation of leaders appearing. Mary Ann Yule has been a great role  model as the President and CEO of HP Canada and a champion for the BIPOC community Recently, we saw a progressive message from the new President and CEO of Ricoh North  America. As we attempt to recruit Millennials into our industry, the best talent will demand an  inclusive environment. Let’s keep this momentum going throughout our channel.

    "Will we ever learn? We've been here before. It's just what we know”   
    Sign of the Times 
  5. Stay focused, and have fun! 
    Harry Styles is a millennial in virtually every aspect and sees himself as part of Generation Why? He’s been focused and disciplined professional since he was sixteen. Yet, beyond growing into one of the largest pop stars in the world, the idea of fun is firmly embedded in the fiber of his being. In a recent interview, he noted that he constantly asks the question, “Is this fun?” before jumping into a new project. By committing to the rule of fun and “Treat People with Kindness” (TPWK), is it any wonder that he’s surrounded by world-class talent who are exceptionally loyal and dedicated to his success?  

    When we look at our situation, does your leadership consistently aim to lift others up, challenge you to take risks, and enjoy the journey? Whether it’s your interaction with your employees, customers, or supplier partners, are you committed to having those people leave feeling better? Whether you subscribe to the expression, “May you live in interesting times” as a blessing or a curse, it is our reality. Stay focused and take it all in. You’ll want to look back on this time and reflect on how you successfully pivoted your company while supporting your employees and enjoying the ride. 

    “Feeling good in my skin, I just keep on dancin'.”  
    Treat People With Kindness 

Who knew that being less toxic, more inclusive, and having fun could lead to such success? In my world, I have a couple of lockdowns with two Gen Z kids to thank for the business growth and personal enlightenment. I recommend we all take Harry’s advice and Treat People with Kindness. It could be great for your business and it just might make you feel good. Seems like a win-win. Thanks Harry! 

Brian Stevenson

Brian Stevenson heads up footPRINT Managed Services and is also the Managing Director of INTEC, a group of progressive independent MPS providers across North America. Brian has two decades of experience leading independent MPS providers through periods of rapid growth and has a unique 360° view of the industry with strong relationships across OEMs, Resellers, Distributors, Software providers, and other key industry participants. He is a Board Member of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) and actively supports the City of Hope and the development of girls baseball across North America.