Character of Leadership
"Lee’s idea of success — in business and in his personal life — isn’t monetary."
Character doesn’t develop overnight. It is forged in experience, shaped by challenges and established through practice.
“Lee’s work ethic is outstanding, but the quality that makes him stand apart from others is his character as a leader,” his wife, Rebecca Brodsky 05BEd, said. “Lee is constantly focused on making sure [each member of] his entire team is growing to reach his/her individual potential, and I’ve seen that thoughtfulness motivate his people to work harder for him. He pushes everyone around him to consider the ‘why’ behind every action or decision, to see themselves as part of the bigger picture.”
Part of leading with character is recognizing when to defer to others who have more experience and knowledge than you do. In 2008, Brodsky was two years into his tenure as a global real estate advisor with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. He was representing Marcum LLP, one of the largest independent public accounting and advisory services firms in the United States.
“I was on the phone one evening with Marcum’s CEO, Jeff Weiner,” Brodsky said. “I remember it was a Friday and we had negotiated a lease that just needed his signature on the documents. At the time, he expressed some reservations about the state of the real estate market. I thought, ‘This is a man who grew his firm from five people to a team of 2,500 — he’s been doing this longer than I have, so if he has a gut feeling about something, I’m not going to force him to do something he isn’t comfortable with.’”
On Monday, September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed, sending shock waves around the world and kicking off a global financial crisis.
“I can tell you that the conversation I had with Wagner came back to me in that moment,” Brodsky said. “That open and honest discussion we had in his office prepared me to look at this situation and have the integrity and honesty to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and allow someone with more knowledge drive the transaction. And because we decided to delay signing, we saved Marcum between $30 and $40 million dollars by renegotiating the lease a year later.”
Last year, Brodsky took on another challenge, accepting the role of CEO and launching the brand of the family business, BEB Capital. It is here, according to his wife, Brodsky is able to stretch himself and “Go Beyond” as a leader of character.
“Lee’s idea of success — in business and in his personal life — isn’t monetary,” Rebecca Brodsky said. “It’s all about integrity. He’s not the kind of person who’s always looking for the next deal or the next career move. He’s really interested in getting to know people. When people know their leader cares about them on both a personal and professional level — what motivates them, what their goals are, how they communicate and relate to others — they become invested in the overall success of the company.”
Brodsky's father, Bert Brodsky, pointed out that in an unusual turn of events for a family business, Brodsky's three older siblings voted to elect the youngest, Lee, to be the CEO. "To have the 3 oldest elect the youngest sibling to lead, that shows what kind of character he has," Bert Brodsky said, adding, "I believe that Lee is the foundation that will build a skyscraper."
"When Lee and I got to know each other, it was one of those situations where doing the right thing is extremely hard — and some might even say, illogical..."
As Brodsky puts it, “I really want people to love working at BEB, and it’s really important to me to build an environment where yes, it’s hard work and it’s competitive, but it’s also a place where my team feels appreciated and are willing to go the extra mile because they don’t want to disappoint me. When you have a culture like that, people feel vested and everyone benefits.”
The lessons on leadership that began in the halls of Goizueta Business School and in the meaningful discussion in the university president’s office continue to echo in Brodsky’s impact on those around him.
“When Lee and I got to know each other, it was one of those situations where doing the right thing is extremely hard — and some might even say, illogical,” Wagner said. “But his response to that situation showed me that for Brodsky, telling the whole truth, regardless of the consequences, had nothing to do with logic. It was a matter of character, of who he is as a person. The consequences, of course, from his brothers at the time and from everyone he has done business with since, is the confidence in knowing they are working with someone of great integrity. It was a pleasure and a delight to have been a part of that.”