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Monday, April 4, 2016

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Sydney Finkelstein, Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

Sydney Finkelstein

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Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he teaches courses on Leadership and Strategy. He is also the Faculty Director of the flagship Tuck Executive Program, and has experience working with executives at a number of other prestigious universities around the world. He holds degrees from Concordia University and the London School of Economics, as well as a Ph.D. from Columbia University in strategic management.

Professor Finkelstein has published 20 books and 80 articles, with several bestsellers, including the #1 bestseller in the U.S. and Japan, Why Smart Executives Fail. Based on a six-year study of 51 companies and 200 interviews of business leaders, the book identifies the fundamental reasons why major mistakes happen, points out the early warning signals that are critical for investors and managers alike, and offers ideas on how organizations can develop a capability of learning from corporate mistakes. On Fortune Magazine’s list of Best Business Books, the Wall Street Journal called it “a marvel – a jargon-free business book based on serious research that offers genuine insights with clarity and sometimes even wit … It should be required reading not just for executives but for investors as well.” It has also been featured in media around the world and has been translated into 12 languages. 

His latest bestselling book is SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. Once again he has undertaken extensive research over a ten year period of some of the most intriguing business leaders in the world who all have one thing in common – they helped develop the best talent in their industry sectors, who in turn helped them become the legendary successes they are today. What they did, and how they did it, is shared via fascinating profiles and seven management practices that separate the best bosses from the merely good ones. LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls it “a leadership guide for the Networked Age,” while Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, says “Superbosses gives leaders a playbook to bring out the best in their people.”

Professor Finkelstein is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, and has had three books nominated for the Academy of Management’s Terry Book Award, the most prestigious such honor in the field. His other awards include Finalist for the Academy of Management Executive Best Paper Award (2004), the McKinsey & Company Strategic Management Society Best Conference Paper Prize Honorable Mention (2002), the Best Paper Award from the Academy of Management Executive for his article “Leveraging Intellect” (1997), two Citations of Excellence from ANBAR, the world’s leading guide to management journal literature (1997 & 1998), the Cenafoni Prize for research in Entrepreneurial Strategy (1991), and finalist for the A.T. Kearney award for the best research in strategic management (1988). 

Professor Finkelstein is a recognized thought leader on leadership, strategy, and corporate governance, and is listed on the “Thinkers 50,” the most prestigious ranking of management thinkers in the world. He is well known for his keynote speeches and television appearances, and is a regular columnist for the BBC. He has worked as a consultant and speaker for major companies around the world, including Aetna, American Express, Bank of Montreal, Barclays, BlackRock, Boeing, Cerberus, Chevron, Comcast, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Eaton, Freddie Mac, GE, General Dynamics, Glaxo, Heinz, Hitachi, ING, ITT, J&J, JP Morgan Chase, Mayo Clinic, Korn-Ferry, McGraw-Hill, McKinsey, Merrill Lynch, Monsanto, Morgan Stanley, Novartis, PwC, Raytheon, Roche, Rollins, Russell Reynolds, UBS, and United Technologies.  We are so pleased to present Sydney Finkelstein as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Sydney for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first writing memory? 
Sydney Finkelstein: 
I used to create scrapbooks with a friend. Along with photos and clips from newspapers, there was commentary that I wrote. I was around 6 years old.

What do you enjoy writing the most and why?
I love to apply some insight on business that applies to everyday life, making it practical for a much wider audience.

How do you define a leader?
A leader is someone who creates other leaders.

What are the biggest mistakes people make as leaders and how should they be corrected?
Believing you’re right when you’re really wrong. Solution: self-awareness and intellectual honesty.

Do you believe leader and entrepreneur are synonymous-why or why not?
No. Entrepreneurs create something of potential value to others, which may or may not involve helping other people get better at whatever they do.

Do you think people are born leaders or they can learn to be leaders and why?
While some people have innate skills that come out as charisma or intelligence, anyone can be a leader. If all we ever could accomplish in our lives was set in stone by birth, what kind of life would it be?

How does leadership differ around the world, or does it not differ?
Leadership styles do differ around the world because of cultural differences, but fundamentally I believe the heart of leadership is much more the same than different. That’s because despite the huge cultural differences among people, we are all of a common species that has many more millennia of history than any country does on the face of the earth. These enduring similarities are more important than the differences that emerge from different nations and cultures.

What do you love about Dartmouth as opposed to the corporate world?
Dartmouth is out in the woods, away from so many challenges, a place that enables you to think, to write, to adopt a simpler lifestyle than is possible in more urban settings. That simplicity cannot be matched, and is what keeps me at Dartmouth.

What should everyone know about Dartmouth that they might not know yet?
The business school – Tuck – is the oldest graduate business school in the world.

Do you think people with Ivy League degrees have more opportunities in life-why or why not?
Yes, the network creates opportunities, but I’m not sure it’s any more powerful that having a degree from other places with powerful networks like USC and Notre Dame, among others.

How would you compare and contrast academic intelligence and emotional intelligence and how often do you think they intersect?
Academic intelligence is based on analytical skills more than anything else, but emotional intelligence is based on people skills. You can be a great analyst with the former, but you won’t be a great leader without the latter.

What is the key to “getting into” your program at Dartmouth?
Be exceptional in more than one way. The bar has gone up, so that even perfect SAT scores do not guarantee getting into Dartmouth. The one good thing to say is that being truly interesting – with evidence to support that interest – is still a big differentiator. 

Who are your top five favorite leaders in past history and why?
Martin Luther King – courage, persistence, vision.
Golda Meir – strength of character, ability to overcome discrimination as a woman, power.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau – changed Canada to become one of the most progressive nations in the world.
FDR – giant in US for holding onto power for so long, which should not underestimated. And putting US on path toward much more liberal society.
JFK – even Presidents only make a few decisions that are critical, but the ones JFK made during the Cuban Missile Crisis may well have saved the world from total disaster. In the modern age, with nuclear arms proliferating, JFK remains a great history lesson in control. 

Who are your top five favorite leaders in 2016 and why?
Jeff Bezos – despite some bad press, there have seldom been any companies with the track record of constant innovation that Amazon had had. Bezos is the reason.
Michael Bloomberg – ultra-competent, transformational leader for NYC, all after building one of the great media companies of modern times.
[Note from the Editor: Also, his daughter is exceptional!]
John Kasich – while I don’t agree with all of his policies, it’s something to see the one adult in the room. I realize this is a particularly low bar, but he’s clearly the best of the Republican candidates.
Alice Waters – creator of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA, and person most responsible for farm-to-table, organic, local sourcing of food for restaurant. A true revolutionary with giant impact. 
Wendy Kopp – Teach for America – taking on a giant challenge of teaching quality in K-12 schools, and has the business sense to create a thriving organization that is still attracting some of the best young talent around.

What are the keys to navigating change as a leader and how would you apply these keys across different industries?
Recognize how the world is changing to start with, come up with a plan of action that is better than where you are now, and build a team that can execute on that new plan of action. These three elements of change are the same no matter what the industry.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My mother.

What are you proudest of and why?
Starting each day with the intention of having an impact – on other people, on ideas, on organizations. That focus on making a difference has been central to me forever, and I’m very proud that I’ve gone after it.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Write a screenplay.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Thinkers50 – top 50 management gurus in the world; Fellow of Academy of Management (very select group of academics in my area); Finalist for multiple book awards from the Academy of Management; chaired professorship at Dartmouth; on multiple lists of “must read” best books for Superbosses.

What one word best describes you and why?
Impact – it’s what I’ve tried to do my entire life, both as a professor, a writer, a consultant, a speaker, and a friend.

What do you take your sense of identity from?
The fact that my family started with nothing, and created an environment that gave me the opportunity to make a difference.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And New Hampshire?
Bluestone Coffee, near Bryant Park. Superb Australian coffee in a bright store, perfect for a coffee snob. 
My house in NH.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And New Hampshire?
Williams Sonoma in Time Warner Center.
The bar at Pine restaurant in the Hanover Inn.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Hilary Clinton – I love complicated people who are exceptionally smart, and flawed. I suspect there’s nothing she couldn’t do, and I’d very much enjoy a front-row seat to watch, and learn.

What is your favorite drink?
Lemon drop martini.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Being mistaken for someone else and playing along. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And New Hampshire?

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And New Hampshire?
Heat, by Bill Buford, about his experiences working for Mario Batali at Babbo.
Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger

What is your favorite movie and why?
Casablana – a classic for a reason. Bogie and Bacall

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Barack Obama – isn’t it obvious?

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And New Hampshire?
I’m not interested in having my name plastered all over a building – it would just signify that I have money and gave some of it away. Much better is to have my name associated with a type of leader. A superboss or someone who has the potential to be a superboss would be a Syd Boss.
No different in NH, except maybe have a drink named after me at the Pine bar.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And New Hampshire?
Manhattan is all about walking. Before fitbit, we never knew just how many steps we’d take in a day, but now we know. And in Manhattan, I walk everywhere, for as much time as I have. It’s not just athletic, of course, but cultural and social, breathing in the city as you go by.
In NH – cycling. The hills around Hanover, NH are beautiful and perfect for biking.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And New Hampshire? 
In Manhattan- Discovering new places by getting lost walking in the West Village.
In NH – See wildflowers pop up through the snow in spring.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
Moses, as long as I didn’t have to eat Kosher. How did he get all those people to listen to him?

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And New Hampshire?
Classical music played by two guys in Central Park.
NH – Teaching 10 year old kids to write a story while listening to New York State of Mind, by Billy Joel.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I’m a teacher – not just in class but in most of what I try to do in life. Teachers are givers – of ideas, of inspiration, of courage.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And New Hampshire?
People are often underrated in Manhattan, seen as rough and tough. But I’ve found that the vast majority are great company, even for a small chat. Apartment are overrated, which is blasphemy for Manhattanites. But it’s true. Paying $3 million for 1000 square feet just doesn’t do it for me.
NH – Again, the people. At least around where I live near Dartmouth College it’s hard to find much more dynamic and intriguing people to hang around with. There is no replacement for intellectural curiosity, and even though we may be in the frozen north, you’re surrounded by fascinating and accomplished people all the time. The cold is overrated – it’s really not that bad once you get used to it. I’d rather have the cold than the extreme heat of most of the country during summer.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite WhomYouKnow
​.com​ column and what do you like about it?
I like NHL Peachy. It’s not what I expected. Who knew Peachy is into hockey?

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
Created a company that helps leaders and their teams learn how to be a superboss.
Foodie and coffee snob.
Lucky to be an academic entrepreneur.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Find me on twitter: @sydfinkelstein
Buy my book, Superbosses
Check my website

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