Lately, I've been surrounded by the theme of management and leadership, and the role of each in the future of work. Recently I spoke with Sydney Finkelstein to discuss what makes some leaders truly exceptional. Sydney is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and faculty director of the Tuck Executive Program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is also the author of the phenomenal new book Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent.

The idea for Sydney's book and the Superboss title arose from a pattern that he noticed in the food industry where sous-chefs at a particular restaurant were moving on to new restaurants and becoming executive chefs. Sydney began to research if the pattern was present in other industries and found that in many fields, one person has immense influence in the development of talent in that field. The book took 10 years to write... the more time Sydney spent on it, the more fascinated he became!

So what exactly is a Superboss? While a leader is someone that creates other leaders, a Superboss is even more than that. A Superboss is a leader that helps other people accomplish more than they ever thought possible. He or she really makes it their business to turbocharge their employees' careers. While most bosses are narrowly focused on performance, command, and control, a Superboss has an invested interest in employees succeeding.

Sydney shares some examples of Superbosses ranging from fashion designer Ralph Lauren to Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. He has found that there are three types of Superbosses:

  • Iconoclasts that tend to be creative and need to learn
  • Glorious Bastards who are tough and may even lead with ridicule
  • Nurturers that truly care about the success of their protégés.

Here's the think about Superbosses: We all have the ability to become one. The traits are completely learnable and teachable but one must be willing to make the commitment. For example, instead of solely thinking about development of talent and retention, consider the outflow. The best talent most likely sees themselves moving on to bigger and better things so enable that idea. Continue to interact with your team members after they leave your nest. Always be on the look out for talent, inspire your team, instill confidence in others, and delegate tasks--but don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, as well.

Want to know more about Superbosses? Check out the podcast above to hear Finkelstein explain more of his findings.