By: Christine Spadafor Posted: Feb 9th, 2016


Think back on your career: Was there ever a boss who recognized your special talents and truly believed in your potential? If you’re among the fortunate ones who has known that kind of leadership, you can easily recall how he or she inspired and motivated. You experienced first-hand the transformative power of talent development that goes far beyond mentoring…

Now consider your performance as a boss: Do your leadership practices exert the same inspirational, motivational effect on others? Are you effecting the same kind of career-transforming effects that meant so much to you?

Some leaders — simply because of long-held beliefs and unwavering values — are committed to selecting and developing “high talent” protégées to achieve their optimal performance.  These leaders successfully encourage similar talent development by managers at every level in their organizations — resulting in a visible and sustained focus on people.

Superbosses by Sydney Finkelstein, Tuck Executive Education at Dartmouth


Developing an organization’s talent — consistently and systematically — may be (and arguably, should be) the single most important contribution a leader makes. Important for the employees, important for the organization and — as a result — essential for the bottom line. Unfortunately, leaders possessing the crucial skills to systematically identify, cultivate, nurture and inspire exceptional talent are not common.

An in-depth Gallup survey* reported that only 18% of managers have a “high talent” for leadership skills — such as establishing accountability in the workplace, motivating workers and building relationships with them. (*“Managers With High Talent Twice as Likely to be Engaged,” April 2, 2015 — from Gallup’s “State of the American Manager” report.) That research also identified a smaller group (just one in 10 managers) possessing "the unique blend of innate characteristics that Gallup has found to be predictors of management excellence, including the motivator, assertiveness, accountability, relationships, and decision-making talents."


For the past 10 years, Sydney Finkelstein (the Steven Roth Professor of Management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business) has been studying extraordinary leaders. He defines these characteristics in his new book, “Superbosses:  How Exceptional Leaders Nurture Talent to Achieve Market Domination.” (Portfolio/Penguin, February 2016)

Professor Finkelstein researched leadership career patterns and organizational structures — developing a keen eye for spotting subtle trends in the aggregate talent-development data. He noticed patterns in the talent structure of specific industries — often observing that unexpected numbers of industry leaders all had worked at one time or another for the same type of powerful individual — a “superboss.”

His curiosity aroused, Professor Finkelstein engaged in “reverse-engineering” the character traits that define these superbosses. What was it that made these exceptional leaders capable of casting such long shadows of influence? (Impacts that often continued long after a formal top-down relationship had ended.) As Professor Finkelstein put it, he sought to go beyond the superstars themselves — to find the “secrets” of these “star-makers”.  Continue reading on the SpadaforClay Group website.

Professory Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Director of the Tuck Executive Program (TEP). TEP immerses senior executives in a comprehensive, strategic general management experience with an unparalleled emphasis on personal leadership development. Designed for executives whose careers have ben marked by achievement and who have just reached, ora re about to reach, significant leadership postitions, the program expands the strategic mindset, vision, and leadership capabilities in an engaging transformative experience.

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