The National Center for the Middle Market recently published an interview with author and leadership guru Sydney Finkelstein. His most recent book,  Superbosses, details individuals who are unusually skilled at identifying and developing talent. The 18 exceptional leaders Finkelstein describes in Superbosses include fashion mogul Ralph Lauren, marketing maven Jay Chiat, technology empire-builder Larry Ellison, NFL coaching legend Bill Walsh, and more.

Writer Chuck Leddy conducted this interview with Finkelstein. Below is an excerpt. You can read the entire interview here How to flex your superboss muscles

Chuck Leddy: How might the superboss playbook be applicable for middle market companies?

Sydney Finkelstein: The superboss playbook applies to any type of leader in any organization that needs to build leaders, so that’s all organizations. In a middle market company, you might easily argue, superbosses have a greater potential impact to move the needle. In a big company, there are just so many structures and processes and bureaucracies that make change harder.

Because of their more manageable size compared to giants like GE or Google, middle market companies have a real opportunity to inculcate the DNA of the superboss culture. They can thus gain a competitive advantage over huge companies that normally have an edge over them due to scale, because middle market companies can more easily create a culture of talent using the superboss playbook. 

Leddy: Can you explain how superbosses think differently about talent retention?

Finkelstein: Superbosses are radical in many ways, and here’s one of them. If you find and develop great people, they will receive great opportunities. The best thing any middle market company can do is grow their business in order to create more opportunities for talent, so that bigger companies can’t come in and poach your talent. Now how do you grow? Develop the best talent, of course. So building a company of superbosses is the best way to grow any business.

But sometimes, you won’t grow fast enough or the outside opportunity is just too attractive. At that point, your choice is to be strategic and get some benefit from the situation. The talent gets to choose, and if you’re a great talent scout, then you already have a pipeline of talent ready to replace the one you’re losing. If you’ve helped someone develop and that’s led them to a big career opportunity, they’ll keep looking for opportunities to work with you and help you out in the future. You thus create a network of talent both inside and outside your company.

Leddy: How might middle market leaders leverage the superboss playbook to attract talent in the first place?

Finkelstein: All leaders have to be talent scouts. No matter where you go, even if you’re not currently hiring, keep your eyes open for talent. Don’t be afraid to hire somebody on the spot. Superbosses take chances on unconventional candidates.

You can read Leddy's entire interview on the National Center For The Middle Market web site

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is highly collaborative, versatile communications professional with a proven track record as both a journalist and business communications trainer for Fortune 500 companies. As a reporter and freelance writer for the Harvard Gazette and Boston Globe, he's published hundreds of stories, features, profiles, and interviews. As a business communications trainer in Boston, he's worked with C-level executive from around the globe, helping them improve their business English skills in writing, presentations, negotiations, and other forms of communication. Leddy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, then graduated from Boston College Law School in 1991, after which he practiced law in Greater Boston for three years. He's been a journalist and teacher since 1995.