One of the most difficult things to execute as a leader is called a “Declaration”. In the field of speech, that is defined as “a public communication that moves us toward a future possibility.” It must have Authority, a clear definition of the future state, inspire others to join in, be within their grasp… and slightly out of their reach. It is that last part – getting people to step up and join in the journey that is often complex… as without execution, it is just words. Faith is what causes you to actually move forward…
… which I was thinking about on this Saturday – a day which has No Name. In Easter week, 4 days are named… but not today. It is just… Saturday… between crushing defeat and joyous victory, which would be reversed depending on which Declaration you had Faith in. It is what makes leading hard – you have to actually say something that could work out to not be actually real, or true, or helpful… but not saying something is equally not helpful, not true, and certainly not real. You have to execute… something…
Larry Mullen was the middle child in his family, which, if you are keeping track, so far all of the band members are. His father was a civil servant, and his mother a “homemaker”, and they encouraged him to take music lessons, starting with piano, and switching over to drums. He took lessons at 9 and then joined a marching band, both focused on a very “military” approach to drumming. His father suggested he could learn more by playing in a band, and got him into the Post Office Workers Band, which he did for 2 years.
His younger sister died tragically when he was 11, which not much is written about, other than it meant his father stopped pushing him into Catholic Schools and allowed him to go to Mount Temple. It was not the last contribution his father made. “After practicing on my own for months, my father said to me, ‘You really need to be in a band.’” U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. pauses for a moment, reflecting on the momentous day when his dad’s casual remark would serve to bring together four uniquely talented individuals … and launch the career of one of the most-loved bands of all time.
“‘Well, how would I do that?’ I asked him,” Mullen remembers. “‘Put a notice on the [school] notice board,’ [he said]. So I did, the next day. It simply said something like, ‘Musicians wanted to form band. Contact Larry Mullen.’” That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you execute a Declaration.
Soon after, other students started asking him how his band was going. “I said, ‘Well, I’ve only got one guy, called Edge,’” Mullen recalls with a laugh. “He said he was a guitar player. I knew Adam [Clayton] owned a bass guitar. Nobody said that he could play it, but he still owned a bass and he looked like a rock star. I had a kit of drums made by a toy manufacturer. “We met [the following] Wednesday at my house,” he remembers. “I’d asked my parents if I could borrow the kitchen. So we moved the table and chairs out. Adam arrived, Edge arrived, and then Bono arrived with a friend on the back of a motorcycle. We piled into the kitchen and the guitars came out. Everything was out of tune, and we just started to play. And at the end of it, we said, ‘You know, we should do this again.’”
We know they kept meeting, kept executing together, kept working on their sound… for the next 45 years. Interestingly, Larry wasn’t a good drummer, and in fact, the initial conversations for signing with CBS records, they were offered a contract if they would get a new drummer. They stood together, and eventually got signed to Island. As he was in the studio for War, the producer wanted him to use a click track – so he would stay in time. He rejected it – an affront to a drummer – until a chance encounter with the drummer for Sly and Family Stone said he used one. Eventually he would build a great partnership with Adam Clayton who learned to play the bass he owned to hold down the time, and now Larry is regularly thanked by Bono for giving him “The one and only job I have ever had”.
By speaking to what was possible, Larry created what we now can all take for granted as one of the best bands ever. And even further back, the encouragement …the Faith… of his father helping him with how to even get started… that is something leaders do or need to do regularly. Encouraging those who you see more in, creating the opportunity for others to blossom, having the courage to step into situations and declare a future we need. As we execute on this unnamed day, consider how you contribute to the rhythm around us… what can you do to create Two Hearts that Beat Like One?