Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

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Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent


“Superbosses aren’t like most bosses; they follow a playbook all their own.

They are usually intense and passionate – eating, sleeping and breathing

their businesses and inspiring others to do the same.” Sydney Finkelstein  


A good boss leads their team. A superboss builds an army of new leaders

Superbosses can be fierce or gentle, belligerent or self-deprecating, but they do a much better job inspiring or teaching their people because they get in the trenches with their protégées, lead by example and give staff the personal attention they require to move up quickly. That’s the view of business consultant and professor of management Sydney Finkelstein, who spent ten years researching what it is that makes someone a superboss.

Interviewing successful former employees of fashion pioneer Ralph Lauren, musician Miles Davis, and chef Alice Waters from the legendary Chez Pannisse has led Finkelstein to the conclusion that while they may have different characteristics, they all approach their leadership roles in similar ways. Protégées of Jay Chiat from advertisers Chiat Day even set up a website posthumously to capture the life lessons, drama, creativity, and friendships of their time (some good, some bad) spent working with him. Many of the 200 interviewees described their teams as like a cult. Designer Joseph Abboud described working with Ralph Lauren as “It was very much like a cult. You wanted to be part of it. Ralph was our hero. We believed the myth: we dressed the myth. We were the legions.”

Finkelstein defines superbosses as:

And when the time is right, superbosses often encourage star talent to leave. They are not afraid of loosing a skilled performer but embrace the move so that they can become part of their strategic network.

To help assess your own leadership style, and see how you can learn from the superboss approach, Finkelstein suggests ten questions to ask yourself:

We have hopefully all benefited from working with a brilliant boss at one time or another who believed in us and were willing to spend time supporting us. Is it now time to pay it forward? Not only for our own satisfaction but because a highly engaged, fully motivated team is surely the holy grail in team leadership.

About the author

Sydney Finklestein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the director of Tuck’s Center for Leadership in New Hampshire, US. He is a consultant and speaker to senior executives around the globe, as well as an executive coach, focusing on talent development, corporate governance, learning from mistakes, and strategies for growth. He has published 11 previous books, including the Wall Street Journal bestseller Why Smart Executives Fail. He is listed in Thinkers50, the world’s most prestigious ranking of leadership gurus.



“This book could make some bosses angry—and that’s a good thing. Finkelstein’s examination of what actually makes a legendary leader goes against the grain of much standard management “best practice” and offers a whole new way to think about talent.”  Kevin Roberts, executive chairman, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide


“A smart leader surrounds himself with smart people. Through his book, Superbosses, Sydney shows the surprising ways leaders actually find, develop, and grow a team of curious, talented individuals.” 
Millard Drexler, chairman and CEO J.Crew Group


“Superbosses is the rare business book that is chock-full of new, useful, and often unexpected ideas. After you read Finkelstein’s well-crafted gem, you will never go about leading, evaluating, and developing talent in quite the same way.” Robert Sutton, author of Scaling Up Excellence and The No Asshole Rule


Book Details

Author: Sydney Finkelstein

ISBN: 1591847834