Retention. Talent pipeline. We keep hearing these HR terms. In the past couple weeks, a military commander reached out wishing to improve low reenlistment numbers for first term airmen, a federal bankruptcy court shared plans for a 12-month regional leadership development program for junior team members and a local CEO seeking executive coaching connected on LinkedIn. What’s going on?
In Dr. Sydney Finkelstein’s meticulously researched masterwork, Superbosses, subtitled How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, he explains that superbosses fall into three distinct patterns: Iconoclasts, who care about their work and their passion, such as Miles Davis, and are often artistic. Next are the Glorious Bastards, who care solely about winning, and know they need the best people to win, such as Larry Ellison, who has spawned a breadth of talent in Silicon Valley. Last, are the Nurturers, or activist bosses, who consistently guide and teach their protégées, such as Bill Walsh, legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
It seems each of these three recent events may be describing a need for a more nurturing environment. Finkelstein recognized that all superbosses deeply know their team members, in stark contract to clueless, distanced bosses - think Undercover Boss. We may have been conditioned, especially if we are baby boomers, to simply trust our position of authority, or rank as adequate for performance — leaving development and growth to perhaps a different department. Quite the opposite, superbosses disdain anything that may create physical or emotional distance from those in their charge. What superbosses give protégés, then, is something quite rare in professional life, an opportunity to rebrand themselves, or the ultimate alignment of one’s traits and abilities with not just a job, but also a lifetime path.
Leaders are ultimately coaches. Leaders nurture. Super Leaders Deeply Know Their Team.