Sydney Finkelstein

CEO, Tuck Leadership Center
Director, Tuck Executive Program

Author of the highly acclaimed new book, Superbosses

Add to Shortlist More Information @sydfinkelstein
Featured Media


Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management, and Associate Dean for Executive Education, at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he teaches courses on Leadership and Strategy. He is the Faculty Director of the flagship Tuck Executive Program. Professor Finkelstein is a recognized thought leader on leadership, strategy, and corporate governance, and is listed in the “World’s Top 25 Leadership Gurus.” Sydney is listed in the Thinkers 50 2013, the world's top ranking of management gurus.

Professor Finkelstein has published 19 books with several bestsellers. His newest book is Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent is a Best Business Book of 2016 from Amazon. After ten years of research and studying an incredibly diverse group of leaders such as restaurateur Alice Waters, fashion iconoclast Ralph Lauren, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Sydney finds they all have one thing in common — they are legendary for spawning legions of protégés who have gone on to transform entire industries. Via stories and analysis, Superbosses describes what they do, and how they do it.

His other books, include 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 been translated into 11 different languages.

In his follow-up book, Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You, he turned his attention to such major strategic decisions as the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and numerous business cases to explain why decision-makers sometimes think they’re right when they are really wrong. The book takes up recent research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and management to not only document why things go wrong, but also to offer a series of solutions that reduce our vulnerability to falling into the traps that lead to bad decisions.

Professor Finkelstein is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, and has had three books nominated for the Academy of Management’s Terry Book Award, the most prestigious such honor in the field. His other awards include Finalist for the Academy of Management Executive Best Paper Award (2004), the McKinsey & Company Strategic Management Society Best Conference Paper Prize Honorable Mention (2002), the Best Paper Award from the Academy of Management Executive for his article “Leveraging Intellect” (1997), two Citations of Excellence from ANBAR, the world’s leading guide to management journal literature (1997 & 1998), the Cenafoni Prize for research in Entrepreneurial Strategy (1991), and finalist for the A.T. Kearney award for the best research in strategic management (1988).

He holds degrees from Concordia University and the London School of Economics, as well as a Ph.D. from Columbia University in strategic management. He is well known for his keynote speeches and television appearances, and is a columnist for the BBC.



How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

Sydney Finkelstein


Best Business Book of 2016 — Amazon
10 Must-Read Business Books for 2016Inc.
16 Must-Read Business Books for 2016Forbes
Nine leadership books to watch for in 2016The Washington Post

What do football coach Bill Walsh, restaurateur Alice Waters, television executive Lorne Michaels, technology CEO Larry Ellison, and fashion pioneer Ralph Lauren have in common? On the surface, not much, other than consistent success in their fields. But below the surface, they share a common approach to finding, nurturing, leading, and even letting go of great people. The way they deal with talent makes them not merely success stories, not merely organization builders, but what Sydney Finkelstein calls superbosses. They’ve all transformed entire industries.

After ten years of research and more than two hundred interviews, Finkelstein has concluded that superbosses exist in nearly every industry, from the glamorous to the mundane. If you study the top fifty leaders in any field, as many as one-third will have once worked for a superboss.

While superbosses differ in their personal styles, they all focus on identifying promising newcomers, inspiring their best work, and launching them into highly successful careers — while also expanding their own networks and building stronger companies. Among the practices that distinguish superbosses:

They Create Master-Apprentice Relationships.
Superbosses customize their coaching to what each protégé really needs, and also are constant founts of practical wisdom. Advertising legend Jay Chiat not only worked closely with each of his employees but would sometimes extend their discussions into the night.

They Rely on the Cohort Effect.
Superbosses strongly encourage collegiality even as they simultaneously drive internal competition. Lorne Michaels set up Saturday Night Live so that writers and performers are judged by how much of their material actually gets on the air, but they can’t get anything on the air without the support of their coworkers.

They Say Good-Bye on Good Terms.
Nobody likes it when great employees quit, but superbosses don’t respond with anger or resentment. They know that former direct reports can become highly valuable members of their network, especially as they rise to major new roles elsewhere. Julian Robertson, the billionaire hedge fund manager, continued to work with his former employees who started competing hedge funds, and he often profited by investing in them.

By sharing the fascinating stories of superbosses and their protégés, Finkelstein explores a phenomenon that never had a name before. And he shows how each of us can emulate the best tactics of superbosses to create our own powerful networks of extraordinary talent.

Portfolio (February 9, 2016)

Case Study

Ralph Lauren: Superboss


The secret of fearless bosses who inspire brillianceFinancial Times
What makes a boss a 'Suberboss'The Washington Post
Helping Smart Leaders Succeed — Korn Ferry Institute
What separates superbosses from the restThe Globe and Mail
What superbosses do to energize talent — and bossy bosses don'tTechInAsia


Superbosses shows the incredible impact that great managers can have, both on their employees and on entire industries. As masters of career development, superbosses are both talent magnets and launchpads, remaining valued allies with their proteges long after their official relationships have ended. Syd has written a true leadership guide for the Networked Age.”
— Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn, Co-author of The Alliance

“I couldn’t agree more with Sydney Finkelstein that innovation is part of the leadership DNA. The best bosses — superbosses — must foster a culture of innovation, encourage smart risk taking, remove obstacles, and drive change. They demand world-class performance and empower their teams to achieve it. Superbosses gives leaders a playbook to bring out the best in their people.”
— Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, GE

"Superbosses is the rare business book that is chock full of new, useful, and often unexpected ideas. After you read Finkelstein's well-crafted gem, you will never go about leading, evaluating, and developing talent in quite the same way.”
— Robert Sutton, author of Scaling Up Excellence and The No Asshole Rule

“First and foremost this is a book about leadership — how the best recruit, nurture and build teams of strong leaders. Consider it a beacon, written about Superbosses who manage talent innovatively and achieve unrivaled success in their field — and written for those who want to excel and play at the top of their game. Sydney Finkelstein has nailed it."
— General James Amos, USMC (Ret), 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Superbosses is one of the most important, groundbreaking, and actionable leadership books to hit the market in years. Literally anyone who is seeking to have a positive impact on their organization and to achieve personal success as a natural consequence can apply the powerful yet straightforward concepts in the book starting immediately. Sydney Finkelstein has done the hard work of proving, through deep research and analysis, and showing, through colorful stories and examples, that the way the best leaders succeed is by unleashing creativity, innovation, and motivation through their approaches to hiring and management. But here’s the best news — these lessons are teachable and directly applicable, whether you are a chief executive, a soccer coach, or an aspiring young professional.”
— James M. Citrin, Author, The Career Playbook and Leader, CEO Practice, Spencer Stuart

"A smart leader surrounds himself with smart people. Through his book, Superbosses, Sydney shows the surprising ways leaders actually find, develop, and grow a team of curious, talented individuals."
— Millard Drexler, Chairman and CEO J.Crew Group

“Maybe you’re a decent boss. But are you a superboss? That’s the question you’ll be asking yourself after reading Sydney Finkelstein’s fascinating book. By revealing the secrets of superbosses from finance to fashion and from cooking to comic books, Finkelstein offers a smart, actionable playbook for anyone trying to become a better leader.”
— Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell Is Human and Drive

“We have long recognised Sydney Finkelstein as one of the world’s leading management thinkers. With Superbosses, he demonstrates why. It is a riveting, inspiring and practical tour de force.”
— Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, founders, Thinkers50

“This book could make some bosses angry — and that's a good thing. Finkelstein’s examination of what actually makes a legendary leader goes against the grain of much standard management 'best practice' and offers a whole new way to think about talent.”
— Kevin Roberts, executive chairman, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide

“Complete with valuable information for managers and their subordinates, this volume provides great advice for the practice of management.” — Library Journal

Superbosses is that rare business book that does more than inform. It’s positively hard to put down.”
Success magazine

Why Smart Executives Fail

And What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes

Sydney Finkelstein

Bob Pittman and AOL Time Warner. Jean Marie Messier and Vivendi. Jill Barad and Mattel. Dennis Kozlowski and Tyco. It's an all too common scenario. A great company breaks from the pack; the analysts are in love; the smiling CEO appears on the cover of Fortune. Two years later, the company is in flames, the pension plan is bleeding, the stock is worthless. What goes wrong in these cases? Usually it seems that top management made some incredibly stupid mistakes. But the people responsible are almost always remarkably intelligent and usually have terrific track records. Just as puzzling as the fact that brilliant managers can make bad mistakes is the way they so often magnify the damage. Once a company has made a serious mis-step, it often seems as though it can't do anything right. How does this happen? Instead of rectifying their mistakes, why do business leaders regularly make them worse? To answer these questions, Sydney Finkelstein has carried out the largest research project ever devoted to corporate mistakes and failures. In Why Smart Executives Fail, he and his research team uncover-with startling clarity and unassailable documentation-the causes regularly responsible for major business breakdowns. He relates the stories of great business disasters and demonstrates that there are specific, identifiable ways in which many businesses regularly make themselves vulnerable to failure. The result is a truly indispensable, practical, must-read book that explains the mechanics of business failure, how to avoid them, and what to do if they happen.

Portfolio; Reprint edition (May 25, 2004)
Portfolio Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 2, 2003)

Think Again

Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happeining to You

Sydney Finkelstein, Jo Whitehead and Andrew Campbell

Why do smart and experienced leaders make flawed, even catastrophic, decisions? Why do people keep believing they have made the right choice, even with the disastrous result staring them in the face? And how can you be sure you're making the right decision — without the benefit of hindsight?

Sydney Finkelstein, Jo Whitehead, and Andrew Campbell show how the usually beneficial processes of the human mind can become traps when we face big decisions. The authors show how the shortcuts our brains have learned to take over millennia of evolution can derail our decision making.Think Again offers a powerful model for making better decisions, describing the key red flags to watch for and detailing the decision-making safeguards we need.

Using examples from business, politics, and history, Think Again deconstructs bad decisions, as they unfolded in real time, to show how you can avoid the same fate.

Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)


Syd tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

Larry Ellison. Lorne Michaels. Ralph Lauren. Robert Noyce. 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. Based on ten years of research and hundreds of interviews, Superbosses describes what these exceptional leaders did, and how they did it. In his keynote, Sydney will describe 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 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."

Why Talent Retention Can Kill You

Not Built to Last, But Built to Change

HR Like You Never Saw It Before

A New Model of Leadership: Masters and Apprentices

The Secret to Unleashing Innovation

Why Smart Executives Fail

Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions


How can you become a superboss? | Silicon Republic

Managing Talent | MAD

How to Find a 'Superboss' | Fortune

Small biz HR: Becoming a super boss | MSNBC

Business Rockstars

What It Takes to Be a Superboss | HBR

SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

Keynote Speech: The Transformers

How to tell if you work for a super boss | Yahoo! Financial


— The Wall Street Journal
— Silicon Republic
— The Wall Street Journal
— Forbes
— The Wall Street Journal
— CapeTalk
— strategy + business
— Talent Management
— Entrepreneur
— Business Insider
— strategy+business
— Inc.
— MarketWatch
— Entrepreneur
— The Huffington Post
— The Wall Street Journal
— The Globe and Mail
— IndustryWeek
— Business Insider
— Harvard Business Review
— Inc.
— Quartz
— Psychology Today
— Forbes
— Forbes
— Financial Times
— Harvard Business Review
— Harvard Business Review
— Rework