Kinder, Gentler Boss?

While he may not like the nickname, Bruce Springsteen has always been "The Boss".  What may have started as a friendly poke, quickly turned in to reality as Bruce took control of his band and his career on his way to superstardom.  While he may have been a good "boss", he was nonetheless in control of every aspect of his music, the message, the concerts, and the relationship with his fans. In 1989, Bruce informed the members of The E Street Band ("The Band") that he was going in a different direction and wouldn't require their services for the forseeable future.  As the story is told, each band member received a phone call with the news.  The Boss was going in a different direction.  Whatever he said in those phone calls though had an eye towards the future and maintaining the long-term relationships that he had established.

Fast forward to 2011.  Bruce got The Band back together in 1995 to record, in 1999 to tour and have since toured multiple times, recorded several albums, and mourned the loss of two members.  Bruce has continued to work outside the confines of The Band on several other projects, but with the recent loss of Clarence Clemons, the future of The E Street Band has been in doubt.

Little Steven, easily the most quotable member of The Band, spoke to reporters last week when attending the premiere of Paul McCartney's ballet, Ocean's Kingdom.  The Associated Press reported, "Steve Van Zandt says Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band will get together over the next couple of weeks to discuss how the band will proceed without Clarence Clemons."  In the context of Bruce being "The Boss", I find this pretty interesting.

Is Bruce unsure how he wants to proceed and is looking for input from The Band?  Surely Bruce knows what he wants to do. However, from this recent report, it seems that unlike the phone calls he made in 1989, he wants to have this conversation in person rather than simply inform The Band of his decision. 

This shows great leadership.  Big news...good, bad, or indifferent...is always better delivered in person.  The relationships with the members of The Band are relationships that Bruce has had for a long time, some over forty years, and he is smart enough to realize that people want to feel included in the decision-making process, not simply dictated to.  It helps build consensus and loyalty.  Millions of dollars, fame and fortune can also help build those things, but bands break up all the time, leaving countless fortunes on the table. 

In my role, one of my jobs is to facilitate an agreement between two parties with conflicting interests while representing one of the two sides.  Not always that easy. Obviously, my client's interests are more important and we always like to "win".  However, when we approach our negotiations with the long-term relationships in mind, winning becomes slightly less important.  It's still important, but we don't want to burn bridges in the name of minor concessions.  Whether we are representing the tenant or the landlord, there's always another conversation to have at a future date and the market will always turn. 

I recently informed a landlord that my client would be leaving their building and relocating to another building within the market.  I asked for a small concession during the move process and indicated that if they agreed to the concession, it would be viewed favorably when we inevitably encounter this landlord in other markets around the country.  The landlord denied the concession thus burning a bridge with a Fortune 500 company with great credit.  They didn't have the long-term in mind; they were simply upset we were leaving their building.  If they were that upset, they should have maintained the building, investing in the relationship with the tenant.  They didn't and that's why we relocated.

As one of our brightest clients once told me, “it’s not always about the outcome; sometimes it’s about the process.” Even if we know where we want to end up in a deal, it's important not to short-circuit the process.  It leaves people feeling they weren't heard and thus not important to the outcome.

Clearly Bruce knows what he wants the outcome of these conversations to be, but he is acting more like a "leader" than a "boss".  Hopefully, The Band buys in to Bruce's vision and it leads to a tour in 2012.  I can hope...right?

JN