Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Look, I’m sorry, I would really much rather leave this particular mess alone – I’ve already gotten into more than enough trouble for fooling around with it in the first place. But I can’t help myself because someone needs to say this: People have got to stop blaming the faculty for the uproar at the Music Festival.
OK, deep breath. Let’s back up half a step in case anyone hasn’t been paying attention.
There’s been a whole lot of trouble here in River City over the top guy at the Festival, Alan Fletcher.
Having gotten yelled at previously (as mentioned above), I’m not going to dig too deeply into the details of Mr. Fletcher’s situation. But he certainly has had more than a few problems – and those problems wound up late last month with the Festival corporation passing a vote of “no confidence” in the boss.
And that has led a number of people to attack the faculty who hold a majority of the seats on the corporation.
So, here’s a question: Have you ever had a bad boss?
Sure you have. (I know I’ve had bad bosses. Matter of fact, I’ve been a bad boss.)
OK, you had a bad boss. What did you do about it?
Did you keep your mouth shut because you didn’t want to lose your job? Did you complain after work, to your fellow sufferers – who also didn’t have the nerve to stand up to that bad boss?
Odds are you did.
Did you feel good about that? Or did you wish you had the nerve to do something? Did you perhaps wish that your boss’s boss would do something. (Remember: Unless you happen to be the pope or working directly for Kim Jong Il, your boss has a boss. And isn’t it wonderful when a bad boss’s boss is a good boss – a real hero of a boss – who steps in and stands up for everyone who’s suffering?)
Now … keep that in mind and let’s bring it back around to the Music Festival.
It seems that Mr. Alan Fletcher was a bad boss. You can infer that from the fact that the Festival’s internationally respected music director, David Zinman, quit because Mr. Fletcher treated him so badly. You can infer that from the fact that the Festival’s executive committee tried to fire Mr. Fletcher because he treated people so badly.
And, most of all, you can infer that from the fact that the Festival corporation – made up primarily of musicians who worked for Mr. Fletcher – passed that vote of no-confidence.
Now let me be clear: I do not – repeat, NOT – really blame Mr. Fletcher.
As I said, I’ve been a bad boss myself. No one wants to be a jerk. No one wants to treat people badly. But sometimes we find ourselves in positions where we can’t handle things. And then, more often than not, we wind up treating people badly.
It’s not something to be proud of. It just happens.
And that’s when we bad bosses need that good boss – that hero boss – to step in and provide some guidance. We need someone to tell us that we’re way off base and heading in the wrong direction.
And then, if we can’t straighten up and fly right, we need that same hero boss to kick our ass out the door and tell us to find a new job.
Painful perhaps, but that’s the way the world is supposed to work. Bosses have responsibilities that run upward and outward: to the organizations they’re running and to the public those organizations serve. But they also have responsibilities inward and downward: to the people who work for them. Bosses are supposed to support and protect their employees.
It’s a balancing act. Being a boss isn’t easy. But they have to take care of the people who work for them. In the name of fairness. In the name of humanity. And, if none of that cuts the mustard, then in the name of the bottom line. Bad bosses eventually fail because everyone hates them.
I know this all sounds like I’m winding up to slam Mr. Fletcher for being a bad boss.
But even if he is a bad boss, he’s not the bad boss I’m talking about.
The bad boss I’m talking about is his boss: the board of directors of the Aspen Music Festival.
That board is charged with running the Festival, protecting its interests, protecting its heritage, protecting its artists.
And that board is the boss that failed. That board is the boss who should have stepped in and told Mr. Fletcher in no uncertain terms that things were heading for a crash.
I don’t know if Alan Fletcher could have taken that lecture to heart. But I don’t think he got the opportunity.
He got a taste of it, when the executive committee tried to fire him last fall – but then the full board jumped in and overturned the executive committee’s decision.
That’s like Daddy sending you to bed without your supper and Mommy sneaking you a steak sandwich and a hot fudge sundae. You don’t learn your lesson.
And Alan Fletcher didn’t learn his lesson.
Things continued to fester.
And when David Zinman quit, the faculty finally stood up and told off their bad boss in the only way they could, with that vote of no-confidence.
So … remember your bad boss?
Don’t you wish you’d had the courage to tell him off, to stand up for what was right?
The faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School (to give it its full formal name) doesn’t deserve blame. They deserve recognition and appreciation for their courage.
I’ll say it again: I don’t want to blame Alan Fletcher. He is who he is. He’s the man the board hired. He’s the man the board stood up for and declined to discipline, even after alarms were raised.
I blame the board.
As a wise man once said, “You who choose to lead must follow. But if you fall, you fall alone.”
Now let’s all take a deep breath and have a good summer season.