Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he teaches courses on Leadership and Strategy. He is also the Faculty Director of the flagship Tuck Executive Program, and has experience working with executives at a number of other prestigious universities around the world. He holds degrees from Concordia University and the London School of Economics, as well as a Ph.D. from Columbia University in strategic management.
Professor Finkelstein has published 20 books and 80 articles, with several bestsellers, including the #1 bestseller in the U.S. and Japan, Why Smart Executives Fail. Based on a six-year study of 51 companies and 200 interviews of business leaders, the book identifies the fundamental reasons why major mistakes happen, points out the early warning signals that are critical for investors and managers alike, and offers ideas on how organizations can develop a capability of learning from corporate mistakes. On Fortune Magazine’s list of Best Business Books, the Wall Street Journal called it “a marvel – a jargon-free business book based on serious research that offers genuine insights with clarity and sometimes even wit … It should be required reading not just for executives but for investors as well.” It has also been featured in media around the world and has been translated into 12 languages.
His latest book, published in the winter of 2016, is SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. Once again he has undertaken extensive research over a ten year period of some of the most intriguing business leaders in the world who all have one thing in common – they helped develop the best talent in their industry sectors, who in turn helped them become the legendary successes they are today. What they did, and how they did it, is shared via fascinating profiles and seven management practices that separate the best bosses from the merely good ones. LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls it “a leadership guide for the Networked Age,” while Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, says “Superbosses gives leaders a playbook to bring out the best in their people.”
Professor Finkelstein is a recognized thought leader on leadership, strategy, and corporate governance, and is listed on the “Thinkers 50,” the most prestigious ranking of management thinkers in the world. He is well known for his keynote speeches and television appearances, and is a regular columnist for the BBC.
What do you do best?
I am a huge fan of helping people get better. More specifically, I like helping others learn how to manage effectively. After years of studying both what the world’s worst and best leaders do, I’d love to be able to continue to share the insight with anyone who is willing to learn about it.
What makes you the best?
Hard work, years of experience, and willingness to always learn. I am honored to be in the Thinkers 50, the world’s most prestigious ranking of leadership gurus, and from this I’ve discovered that it’s important to surround yourself with the best of the best.
Publishing my most recent book, Superbosses, after ten years of researching the world’s most effective executives, conducting over 200 interviews and writing three-dozen case studies of how the best CEOs develop and leverage talent, upending conventional “best practices.” It’s been incredibly eye-opening to dip deep into the talent management secrets of Larry Ellison, Lorne Michaels, Ralph Lauren, Alice Waters, George Lucas, Miles Davis, and a dozen others. Business leaders and creative icons with tremendous track records who all have something else in common: they helped develop the best talent in their industries, who in turn helped them become the legendary successes they are today. From the research and interviews I developed the “superboss playbook”, the key management practices that separate the best bosses from the merely good ones, and the pathway to becoming a better leader yourself. LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls Superbosses “a leadership guide for the Networked Age,” while Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, says “Superbosses gives leaders a playbook to bring out the best in their people.”
What are your aspirations?
Personal: To do something nice and rewarding every single day. To meet new people and share fascinating ideas. To keep going on a personal wellness journey I know is super important. To travel the world. To spend quality time with my family, and to make sure they are happy.
Business: To continue to help others learn how to manage effectively, and keep doing what I love to do – teach, learn, interact, compare, succeed, collaborate and network.
Most challenging moment?
Receiving the news that my contract would not be renewed as a teacher early on in my career. He successful conveyed the point to me that in order to move my career forward, I had to leave school and go back to school. I had to study to obtain a higher degree, a further qualification, and get out in the world. At the time, I couldn’t understand and thought, why? And how could this be possible? Today, I look back on that experience and see how it has shaped my professional career. My former supervisor and I have since rekindled our friendship and we look back on those days fondly.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. This applies to personal and professional situations, but I keep this one in my back pocket. It really speaks to me, and it’s even become an “inside joke” with my family.
Superbosses. Specifically, the superbosses that are superbosses in-training. They may not know it yet, but through their exceptional ability to spawn talent, maintain a mentorship, and other key qualities of a superboss, like the ability to let talent move on or how they even approach the hiring process as a whole, they’re in the process of becoming a superboss, maybe even at the level of Ralph Lauren, whom I call an iconoclast. It’s remarkable to watch the transition happen, to a mid level or senior level manager. Once they become a superboss, there’s really no turning back.
New York City, London, Paris, Sydney. Each of these cities has a distinct flavor. As a foodie, that’s the flavor I’m talking about, but I also appreciate the cultures these cities have to offer. I’ve lived in some of these incredible destinations, and those were some of the best years of my life.
La Marzocco espresso machine. If you haven’t figured out what your house or apt is missing, this could be it.
Food, Coffee, Travel, Writing. But really, anything where I can learn something and enjoy the experience.