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Jun 22, 2016

Some leaders don’t just build successful organizations; they also attract, train and cultivate the next generation of exceptional leaders.

That’s according to Sydney Finkelstein, Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, who identified this category of über-manager for his new book, Superbosses.

Superbosses book coverHe noticed that in almost every industry, there were leaders who excelled at recruiting and motivating large networks of high potential employees who eventually branched out and effectively led their own companies.

Finding great talent is a perpetual problem

Having detected the pattern, Finkelstein recognized he had found a powerful solution to a perpetual problem for companies large and small – growing talent better than anyone else. “Companies are not too good at this,” he says. “Ask them about their challenges, and finding talent is at the top of every list.”

The business world is continually becoming more competitive, complex and technologically advanced, and nothing is more important for sustained long-term growth than good leadership. So Finkelstein explored the practices these superbosses used to hire and hone talent – practices others could apply to their own organizations.

Make room for others to shine

Specifically, superbosses celebrate the success of their understudies. Instead of feeling jealous or threatened, they take pride in the role they played in guiding raw talent from obscurity to renown and respect.

Employees want to work for organizations that continually invest in developing their skills, enabling them to stay relevant in an ever-changing workforce. They also want balance, passion and purpose in their work. This changing employment value proposition requires organizations to align their business and corporate objectives with the personal, professional and social goals of their employees, to give them an opportunity to make a difference, along with earning a paycheck.

Approach hiring in an unconventional way

Finkelstein suggests that leaders resist the urge to hire or eliminate job candidates based on their on-paper credentials. Be open to ‘diamond in the rough’ candidates who might not have the ideal resume. And don’t be afraid to veer from a duties-oriented interview script to talk about life in general. “The extraordinary practices that define superbosses and contribute to their success are teachable,” says Finkelstein.

Be unusually accessible to your employees

Michael Miles, the former CEO of Kraft Foods, was a master of nurturing consumer-marketing talent. One of the keys to Miles’s success was an almost insatiable habit of making himself available. His office door was always open and he habitually had lunch with employees several rungs below him in the hierarchy – and he did it in the employee cafeteria, so everyone could see.

Work as hard as anyone in the organization

Many superbosses model their passion for the job through their own extraordinary work ethics.

Most organizations aren’t designed to develop leaders – they’re designed to sell products or services. And leaders often make the critical mistake of thinking their organizations can stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace and deliver better results by simply producing a better (or cheaper) product or service.

However, a product or service can easily be replicated, improved, automated or even become obsolete, but there’s never going to be a substitute for great leadership. When you develop and have the right leaders in place, innovation, growth and profits follow.

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