Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book review: Superbosses

I read the book Superbosses: How exceptional people master the flow of talent to see what other people write about bosses. Superbosses is written by Sydney Finkelstein, a Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dart­mouth College. If you haven't read the book, a summary is available at HBR.

The book is an ode to these CEOs. Accordingly, Finkelstein has conducted more than 200 interviews to identify 18 primary study subjects ("definite superbosses") and a few dozen secondary ones ("likely superbosses"). Amongst his favs and cited are Ralph Lauren, Larry Ellison, Julian Robertson, Jay Chiat, Bill Walsh, George Lucas, Bob Noyce, Lorne Michaels, and Mary Kay Ash.

For me "superstars" is not even a thing, the only stars I know are those you see in the sky at night. Superbosses ? I'm even more skeptical of such a thing. If dozens of ex-Robertson disciplines left after few years to start their own funds (Finkelstein talks about Chase Coleman who after three years of working for Robertson was given $25 MM to start his own fund) that wasn't goodwill towards them but profit in store, free money flowing to Julian Robertson from seeder funds. Robertson doing it for some altruistic reason ? Not a chance.

Is this too deep for you now ?

For Finkelstein, superbosses are those amazing "talent spawners" who are out there looking to fill peoples hopes and dreams. I don't believe it for a minute. Yes, they may find "unlikely winners" but that's only (in my opinion) because they're skilled at reading human psychology. Pure selfish reason.
Finkelstein: "At health care giant HCA, Tommy Frist sometimes set even physical therapists on a path to the C-suite, simply because he spotted something in them."

Superbosses "focus on intelligence, creativity, and flexibility." Yes, does everybody else. If I was a candidate looking to get the attention of those "superbosses" so far Finkelstein has given me nothing.

The author talks about the unusual "interview" where "Sanders would invite prospects to hike a 7,000-foot peak on his New Mexico ranch with him and other managers." (HBR) That would be part of the unconventional hiring characteristic. Forgive me, Mr. Finkelstein, but such a proposition is not even remotely available to 99% of job candidates out there. The greatest majority get cut off by HR from ever coming close to a first interview. You talk about eating steak with my boss, while the HR (HR should really be called the Human Waste Department) cut me off early on. You're not helping, Prof. Finkelstein.

"Even if people leave the organization, superbosses continue to offer them advice."
Not happening, bro. When you leave, you might have a non-compete agreement and can't even work for the next few years. At least that has been my experience.

"Oracle's CEO Ellison was very good at "continuously throwing new responsibility at people." At least that statement is accurate. What Prof. Finkelstein overlooked or perhaps, obscured, is that's done with the intent to make people fall. For real bosses [thr greatest majority of them out there} people are like pins on a bowling lane: let's hit them and see which one is still standing. Hopefully none. That's the best analogy for you, Prof. Finkelstein.

The author makes an interesting categorization of bosses into three:

1. Glorious bastards ( Larry Ellison, Michael Milken, Bonnie Fuller, Julian Robertson, Jay Chiat)

2. Nurturers (Mary Kay Ash, Bill Walsh, Michael Miles, Norman Brinker, Tommy Frist) and

3. Iconoclasts (Ralph Lauren, Alice Waters, George Lucas, Jon Stewart, Lorne Michaels, Robert Noyce)

What if he did just one, put them all together, and called it "Bastards" ? Much closer to reality. How many people has Larry Ellison thrown under the buss to get to where he's at ? Nobody talks about that !

Hear me now,

In his book, Prof. Finkelstein doesn't address important issues, such as: 1.) bosses turn on the screws on underlings that overtake them and 2.) the succession proceedings is perhaps the only time when a boss is looking for a replacement that's his equal.

Let me say that last part again:

The only time a boss is looking for a hire someone that is his equal is when the boss is dying ( or becomes incapacitated).

1 comment:

  1. I bet there are 75+ people buried under the shrine of the boss I know. Go figure...


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