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"Superbosses" - A Breakfast with Bestselling Author Sydney Finklestein

March 25, 2016 5:34 PM | Theresa Boyce (Administrator)

By a CEO Trustee (member)

The Philadelphia chapter of the CEO Trust held a terrific breakfast event on March 22nd, hosted at the Clemens Food Group in Hatfield, PA, in their high tech Customer Experience Center.  Participants enjoyed a private culinary breakfast along with a compelling presentation by Dr. Sydney Finklestein, Steven Roth Professor of Management in Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and the author of Superbosses.

Sydney addressed a group of some 25 Trust members and employees of the Clemens organization, focusing on why a very select group of high profile CEOS tend to spin out more talent than all the other CEOs in a given industry.  His groundbreaking studies have shown time and again that these Superbosses have a common set of characteristics that drive the highest levels of motivation and performance in those within their direct sphere of influence, and he conveyed a few wonderful stories to demonstrate this thinking.

In the fashion industry for example, Sydney talked about an evening where one executive and his colleagues were dining out, and one of the members started up a discussion with three women at another table.  The executive began to ask one of the women a series of questions about her rather unique (and attractive) attire, and at the conclusion of this particular executive’s dinner, he walked over to her table and offered her a job.  He then handed her his business card and she was stunned to see that she had been talking with Ralph Lauren.  Superbosses are always-on talent spotters - they don’t follow convention, they act.

In another example, Sydney described how the leader of one of industries largest investment funds, Julian Robertson, motivated his team.  When one of Robertson’s particularly hyper-competitive and young rising stars closed a multi-million dollar deal, the young star expected immediate and enthusiastic praise from Robertson.  When that didn’t come for days, the rising star became frustrated until finally several days later, Robertson walked by his cubicle and gave him a very subtle “nod” as he walked by.  This infuriated the young star who vowed to “show” Robertson that he could do more.  Robertson understood precisely how to motivate this young star and he understood the value of adjusting his interactions with his other employees to accommodate their passion and style.  Needless to say, Robertson has spun off countless stars.

Sydney categorizes Superbosses into three primary categories:  Iconoclasts (single-minded passion that motivates others - think Ralph Lauren), Nurturers (coaches, teachers, mentors - think Mary Kay Ash), and Glorious Bastards (single-minded focus on winning - think Larry Ellison).  Do you know one of these types? 

Ironically, the location for the event was totally appropriate given that another Superboss is Phil Clemens himself, the Chairman of the Clemens Family Corporation.  He has a long history of developing not only a world class business, but also world class leaders, while exemplifying the characteristics of a servant leader.  The business is one of the nation's oldest family-owned marketers of value-added pork products and related customer solutions.  Sitting in their Customer Experience Center, it was easy to see that Phil and his team “get it”.

The group enjoyed a lively Q&A session with Sydney and received an autographed copy of his book.  Can’t wait to read it cover to cover!

Special thanks goes to our gracious host, the Clemens Food Group, for welcoming us to their site.