Summary of Superbosses

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Superbosses book summary

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Dartmouth College business professor Sydney Finkelstein asked star performers across many industries, “Who is the best boss you’ve ever worked for?” They described driven, enigmatic, tireless “superbosses.” These leaders seed entire industries with the talent people they nurture. Finkelstein argues that a small number of bosses produce the great majority of the best talent – a sort of 80/20 rule. Refreshingly, he doesn’t portray superbosses as admirable in every respect. Should you ever work for one, you might not like him or her, and you won’t use the adjective “nice.” But you’ll do anything for that boss – someone you’ll never forget and will even come to love in a way. Though Finkelstein sets the superboss bar fantastically high, getAbstract believes leaders at all levels will learn enough from his investigation to become at least a little more super.

About the Author

Sydney Finkelstein, PhD, is a well-known thought leader, consultant, and executive coach. He teaches management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and is the director of Tuck’s Center for Leadership. His eight previous books include the best-selling Why Smart Executives Fail.


Godfathers of Talent

“Superbosses” hail from every industry and follow no patterns, best practices or rules other than their own. They measure success as much by how many superstars they create as by financial achievements, awards and fame. Their impact doesn’t stop with the leaders and future titans they develop for their own teams and organizations. They affect industries for generations. Search across any profession or industry, and you’ll find that an extraordinary number of its CEOs and superstars trace back to one person for whom they all worked during their career.

Consider Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. The entertainment industry stars who’ve sprung from its proving grounds – including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, Rob Corddry and Ed Helms – attest to Stewart’s bona fides as a superboss. Or look at Michael Miles, legendary former CEO of Kraft Foods, whose protégés include the CEOs of Nabisco, Campbell Soup, Mattel, Young & Rubicam, Gillette, and more.

The Three Types

Each superboss falls into one of three main types:

  • “Iconoclasts” – Their visions drive these superbosses, such as George Lucas and Ralph...

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