Who’s the boss?

As I begin my presidency of the Minnesota State Bar Association, I’ve received a number of much-appreciated kind wishes from friends, colleagues, students, and clients. Yet every now and then when I mention my upcoming presidency, I hear something along the lines of: “Congratulations! Now you’re the head honcho,” the “top dog,” the “big cheese,” “numero uno,” or “You’re the boss.” While of course responsibilities and duties do come with the office, I feel uncomfortable being called or viewed as the boss at the MSBA. After all, what does it really mean to be “the boss?”

Some people, upon hearing the question, “Who’s the boss?” think of the 1980s sitcom featuring Tony Micelli (Tony Danza), a widowed, retired major league baseball player who relocates to Connecticut with his daughter (Alyssa Milano) to work as a live-in housekeeper for divorced ad executive Angela Bower (Judith Light), who has a young son. One of the most popular sitcoms of the 1980s, it broke new ground with its gender-role reversal between Tony and Angela. The show was nominated for over 40 awards and won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Great show, but maybe a sitcom is not the best model for my presidency. 

For others, “Who’s the boss?” evokes memories of a political TV drama from the 1990s starring Kelsey Grammer as the hard-as-nails mayor of Chicago, whose character has recently been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a degenerative neurological disorder. The series was full of political intrigue, corruption, and scandals. This is getting closer to the presidency of a bar association, just not in Minnesota (we hope). 

Then there’s “Undercover Boss,” an American reality television series from 2010 through 2022. Each episode depicts a person who is the president or some other executive-level officer at a major business going undercover as an entry-level employee to discover the faults and shortcomings in the company. At the end of the show, the boss resumes his or her true identity and calls in the selected employees to the corporate headquarters. The boss rewards hardworking employees through promotions and material or financial rewards, while other employees are given corrective training. The bar association staff isn’t really large enough for me to successfully spy on and they would probably just get creeped out. Not a good first impression.

Of course, the real “Boss” is Bruce Springsteen. This year, 73 years young, he is back on tour with the E Street Band to wide acclaim. Springsteen’s recording career spans more than 50 years. He has released 21 studio albums, garnered 20 Grammys, won an Oscar, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Kennedy Center Honor. With all these accolades, one might assume Springsteen chose the nickname The Boss for himself. But nothing could be further from the truth. Andrew Delahunty, the author of the Oxford Dictionary of Nicknames, recalled to the BBC in 2009: “In the early days when he and the E Street Band played gigs in small venues, it was Bruce’s job to collect the money and pay the rest of the band,” says Delahunty. “This led them to start calling him The Boss, a nickname which has stuck.”1 Like any good leader, Springsteen made sure his band and others who performed with him were paid. Interestingly, it was his band members who came up with the name, not Springsteen himself—in large part because of his fair and equitable treatment of the band both on and off the stage.2 He was The Boss you wish you had. Yet, Springsteen has said he is uncomfortable with his nickname and has said: “I hate bosses. I hate being called the boss.”3 

The character qualities that led others to affectionately call Springsteen “The Boss” are more in line with my idea of the proper role of a bar president—one who empowers other bar leaders and shares the credit. Anyone has been active in the MSBA knows that no one person is “The Boss” at the MSBA, and it is certainly not me as president. Instead, our success is a collaborative effort involving our dedicated professional staff and our many volunteer lawyers, whose work together makes the MSBA relevant and meaningful to our members and to the profession. The MSBA has many volunteer bar leaders—officers, directors, assembly members, section and committee members, and past presidents—who all work hard to make the MSBA a bar association of which we all can be proud. My goal as your bar president this year is to focus more on “we” than “me.” 

My success this year should be measured not by whether I garner awards or put on a great show but how well we do together as a bar. There is really only one “Boss” and that is Bruce Springsteen. 

2023-MSBA-President-Paul-FloydPaul Floyd is one of the founding partners of Wallen-Friedman & Floyd, PA, a business and litigation boutique law firm located in Minneapolis. Paul has been the president of the HCBA, HCBF, and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He lives with his wife, Donna, in Roseville, along with their two cats.


1 See, Joe Taysom, Why Bruce Springsteen hates being called 'The Boss', Far Out Magazine at https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/why-bruce-springsteen-hates-being-called-the-boss/.

2 A&E Television Networks’ website: Biography.com at https://www.biography.com/musicians/bruce-springsteen. (“The Boss and the E Street Band”).

3 See, Bruce Springsteen,
Encyclopedia.com at https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-popular-and-jazz-biographies/bruce-springsteen