Q: How do you look at the attributes of your brand, and what goes into your decision to change your brand and how to move it forward?
BETTMAN: For us, branding is about how we relate to our fans. We view ourselves as exciting, fast–paced, passionate entertainment, with the world's best athletes, skating on a quarter of an inch blade of steel at 30 miles an hour, encouraged to physically impact with each other and score goals at the same time. It is a game that people can connect to, people can get excited about. And those attributes are what give us a fan base that, believe it or not, is the best educated, most affluent, and most tech savvy of all of the major sports.
So what we do in terms of our branding is making sure that people feel those elements of the game, the excitement, the passion, the quality of our players, the excitement of our competition. And we have to constantly reinforce that message to the people who are our fans, and to casual sports fans who we're trying to get hooked.
Q: When you think about inspirational leaders, who you've looked at and maybe thought about the skills that they brought to their jobs, do any stand out as having given you some thoughts about how to be a better commissioner?
BETTMAN: You know, there's no one person who does that. Obviously, I grew up mentored by David Stern. You know, I knew Pete Rosell. I've had an opportunity to spend time with business leaders who run big companies, and do it very well. I don't think that there is one model out there. I think every leader has to adapt to his company, has to adapt to the customers that the company has to deal with, has to set the tone that works within the culture and the environment that they have to be in. I think you really have to pick and choose the best of the best. At least that's what I try and do. And I hope I do it in terms of my own organization, both at the league level and the team level, in a way that it gives people comfort that we're doing the right things, that we're on the right course, and that we're executing the way we need to.
Q: I'm a great believer that we can all learn from each other in terms of a lot of things, certainly leadership. You are in a very visible role, you still are, and a very challenging role over the last year as a leader. If you were teaching a class on leadership, what are the key principle leaderships that you've followed, things that you might have earned along the way?
BETTMAN: That's a great question. From my standpoint – and keep in the context that I'm dealing with a two–tiered organization, with people that have different agendas – you've got to set a course that people believe in. You have to make sure that the people that work with you have confidence in where you're going, how you're getting there, and their role in the process.
Because, particularly in my business, having the right answer is important. You've got to do your homework. You've got to be on top of your game, knowing what you're doing, knowing more than anybody else. But getting the answer right is important, but so is how you get there. Because if people feel that they're having things just shoved down their throats, instead of being part of the process of getting you where you're going, you get resistance.
In our case, where I've got 30 different clubs, I need to get everybody moving in lockstep. I need everybody to come out of yesterday's meeting believing that the decision we made was the right one. And so it isn't about me going into a meeting and saying, "Here's what we need to do." It is really, "Here are the issues. Here are the things you need to know about both sides. And here's how I think together we can work our way through it."
So it's building a consensus both through substance and process, and letting people believe that you're doing the right things and that you know where you're going. Because if they don't have confidence in you, they're not going to fulfill your agenda. Sure, it's hard. But as long as you feel ike you're doing the right thing, then you can live with yourself and be at peace about it, because you're meeting the responsibilities you have as a leader."