“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 big name in management/leadership circles, has one central thesis: In any industry there are figures who are not only brilliant themselves but who employ and inspire other brilliant people. It’s an interesting insight by the director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, who also acts as a speaker and consultant to senior executives around the globe.
The superbosses Finkelstein describes in his book are never formulaic in their approach. Their most important trait is complete authenticity: All of their actions come naturally to them. They possess four other important traits:
- They show extreme confidence, even fearlessness, when it comes to pushing their ideas and vision.
- They exhibit extreme competitiveness.
- They live their vision.
- And they adhere strictly to a core vision or sense of self.
“Superbosses look fearlessly in unusual places for talent and interview candidate in colorful ways. They create impossibly high work standards that push protégés to their limits. They engage in an almost inexplicable form of mentoring and coaching, one that occurs spontaneously with (apparently) no clear rules. They lavish responsibility on inexperienced protégés, taking risks that seem foolish to outsiders.”
Broadly, superbosses fall into three groups. The first are the iconoclasts, who are so fixed on their passion (music, food or whatever) that it motivates the team. Good examples of this type are Miles Davis, Ralph Lauren and Loren Michaels. The second group Finkelstein calls “glorious bastards.” They are driven by the desire to win, and know that to do this they have to get others to win too, but they have no interest in developing others. Finkelstein includes Larry Ellison, Roger Corman and Michael Milken in this group The third group are nurturers. They want to win while developing other people around them at the same time. Examples mentioned are Jon Stewart, Gregg Popovich and Bill Walsh.
One would imagine that the nurturers are the most successful but, surprisingly, research indicates that all three types of superbosses have ways of attracting amazing talent. They are the worst nightmare for any HR department because they hire on intuition, micromanage, and give their protégés responsibilities outside of their job descriptions.
The most intriguing part of the book is that it puts people above management strategies. Studying other leaders succeed is the best way to learn about leadership, especially when it comes to attracting, nurturing and leading great talent. Fact is, superbosses are forces of nature. But one should not believe that becoming a superboss is impossible. This book will help you think more creatively and on a larger scale about your job and life.
As Finkelstein says, “workplaces could be transformed from dull, dreary places to powerhouses of innovation. But the stakes are greater than that. Ultimately, more companies may survive if superbosses’ practices become widespread.”