Recruiting and motivating large networks of star employees is important, if you're going to be the next president.
With this in mind--and with South Carolina's Democratic primary around the corner--I reached out to leadership expert Sydney Finkelstein. His recently released book, Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, profiles leaders in various industries--from entertainment to football to food to software--for their abilities to cultivate massive networks of talent.
Having already read the book and shared some of its hiring tips, I knew Finkelstein, professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, gives Hillary Clinton (and husband Bill) high marks as a superboss. She can cultivate a talent pipeline, and she's known for unabashedly giving feedback, including negative feedback, to her staff.
But Finkelstein says that there's one superboss trait Clinton does not exhibit: the strict adherence to a core vision. "She has a vision, but the vision changes," says Finkelstein. The best superbosses, he adds, have an uncompromising vision of the world that is compelling and energizing. "They know how to make people believe in it and become inspired by it," he says. "Compare that to Obama. One of the biggest reasons he won was that he was able to inspire people."
Likewise, Finkelstein lauds Bernie Sanders for his superboss-like ability to inspire people with his core vision. "I've been to a Bernie event up in Hanover [New Hampshire], and he totally energizes people," says Finkelstein. "It's not unlike seeing Obama eight years earlier, before he hit it big. There's just something in the air, the energy. Bernie's got that and Hillary doesn't."
Where Clinton shines as a superboss is in her talent management practices. Here are two examples, from Finkelstein's book:
1. She catapults former protégés into new jobs. For example, Cheryl Mills served as White House press secretary under Bill Clinton; she then became a key adviser to Hillary Clinton. Later in her career, Mills became the nation's chief protocol officer under President Obama. "Usually, this post is given to one of the president's friends; in this case, it went to a friend and associate of Hillary's," Finkelstein writes. Like a good superboss, Clinton was unabashed about helping a former employee land a plum job with someone else.
2. Her network is extensive, and she leans on it repeatedly. For Clinton's campaign for the presidency in 2016, she retained John Podesta, who had formerly served as Bill Clinton's chief of staff. Campaign manager Robby Mook and senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan are also alums from Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. Bill Clinton's longtime press aide, Nick Merrill, is now serving as traveling press secretary for Hillary Clinton's campaign. And former Clinton White House staffer Jennifer Palmieri is the communications director of Hillary Clinton's campaign. "With the Clintons' vast network of proven and loyal talent, imagine the inherent advantage Hillary [has] over competitors with a weaker talent bench," Finkelstein writes.