Who is a superboss?

HDFC Life's senior EVP Sanjay Tripathy reviews Sydney Finkelstein's 'Superbosses' 

Published 8 years ago on Sep 10, 2016 3 minutes Read

A book that made me re-think about myself as a ‘boss’, ‘Superbosses’ by Sydney Finkelstein is one book you will want to read over and over again. Deeply insightful, and full of real-life experiences, Finkelstein wrote this book after over a decade of research; research that took him across diverse industries and very different personalities. The research helped him categorise successful bosses and their attitudes towards leadership. The best part is that for this book, he has studied and evaluated bosses across a wide spectrum of fields – right from sports to culinary to business.There are a zillion books on how to be a great leader, ‘Superbosses’ is not one of those; it is about how a superboss can  create great leaders.

A superboss is one who is not only a great boss himself, but also creates a culture of great leadership around him; thus motivating, mentoring and enthusing other bosses to become superlative bosses. A great trait of superbosses is that they keep pushing the envelope for their protégés being fully confident that they will outperform expectations. Superbosses somehow have the knack for smelling out the right talent which might not necessarily conform to the gold standard of recruiting people, yet their conviction always tends to be proved right. They focus on intelligence, creativity and flexibility, hiring ‘unlikely winners’ and would rather customise the job to fit the talent of their protégés. They often deliberately hire people much smarter than themselves because only then can they delegate what they themselves can not do.

The book divides superbosses into three categories: iconoclasts who are so in love with what they do that others get motivated, glorious bastards who are focused on winning and understand that if they have to win, they have to help others win too and nurturers who want to win but also help others develop, their focus is more on nurturing; winning is a side-result. But irrespective of which category they belong to, almost all these superbosses thrive by getting their protégés to unleash creativity & innovation freely; akin to bringing them to a boil, setting them up like a volcano and then letting them explode through their own strengths.

There are a couple of traits that all the superbosses share – they are competitive, fearless and intuitive. They are strong, driven and imaginative. They nurture hands-on leaders by giving them onground experience, monitoring their progress and providing intense feedback and offers instructions. They love what they do, and they help others find love and joy in what they do. That is how they build a network of great bosses all around them. They continue to be mentors for their protégés, offering advise and guidance even if they are working in different organisations, because superbosses' teachings extends to life lessons as well.

By the end of the book I was reminiscing on the bosses and superbosses I have had in my life, people I keep going back to again and again, irrespective of where we are. And I was asking myself how I could try turning into a superboss myself. That's when I realised the true power of a great book – it has the ability to make the reader introspect and change himself. A must-read for all of us who are in leadership positions and want to build a greater team or motivate and mentor more people into becoming successful bosses themselves.