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For decades renowned thought leader, Sydney Finkelstein has been at the forefront of pinpointing why great companies and leaders fail and how business executives and managers can avoid the same missteps at their own organizations. He is the Steven Roth Professor of Management, and Faculty Director of the Tuck Executive Program (TEP) at the Tuck Center for Leadership.

Professor Finkelstein has published 75 articles and 19 books, with several bestsellers, including the #1 bestseller in the U.S. and Japan, Why Smart Executives Fail. His newest work Superbosses draws from a decade of research and hundreds of interviews to explore what heavyweight leaders like Lorne Michaels, Ralph Lauren, and George Lucas did differently. Professor Finkelstein is also a regular columnist for the BBC.

Professor Finkelstein is a recognized thought leader on leadership, strategy, and corporate governance and listed in the “World’s Top 25 Leadership Gurus” and on the “Thinkers 50.” He has served as a consultant and speaker for major companies around the world, including, Aetna, American Express, Bank of Montreal, Barclays, Boeing, Cerberus, Chevron, Comcast, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, and many others.

Full Profile

Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management, and Associate Dean for Executive Education, at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he teaches courses on Leadership and Strategy. He is the Faculty Director of the flagship Tuck Executive Program, and also has experience working with executives at Northwestern, Wharton, Duke, Bocconi, London Business School, Australian Graduate School of Management, Melbourne Business School, Hanoi School of Business, the Chalmers School (Sweden) and the Helsinki School of Economics. 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 19 books and 75 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 such media as the Financial Times, Business Week, the London Times, the Toronto Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Across the Board, and Entrepreneurship, among others, and has been translated into 11 different languages.

In Professor Finkelstein’s follow-up book, Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You (Harvard Business Press) published in 2009, he turned his attention to such major strategic decisions as the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and numerous business cases to explain why decision-makers sometimes think they’re right when they are really wrong. The book takes up recent research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and management to not only document why things go wrong, but also to offer a series of solutions that reduce our vulnerability to falling into the traps that lead to bad decisions.

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 in the “World’s Top 25 Leadership Gurus.” He is well known for his keynote speeches and television appearances, and is a 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, 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.


Sydney Finkelstein Speaker Videos Back to top

Sydney Finkelstein, Leadership and Strategy Speaker: Keynote Excerpts


Based on the in-depth research of his latest book, Sydney Finkelstein outlines what superior bosses do differently from the rest of us. Using real life examples and familiar names, he provides a fascinating glimpse into how these extraordinary individuals' approaches to finding and inspiring their talent propel an exponential difference.

Brushing by the typical hiring process of sorting out resumes according to specific skills and then picking the person that seems to display those qualifications, Professor Finkelstein reveals that superbosses have quite the reverse style of recruiting: they spot talent and then create a job for that person.

One of his favorite stories illustrating this involves Ralph Lauren going out to dinner and striking up a conversation with a woman at a nearby table, because he was intrigued by the way she had mixed and matched different pieces of clothing to put together the outfit she was wearing. "He said, 'Maybe you could come by the office tomorrow. I'd love to offer you a job.' And then he gave her his card. She didn't know who he was," Professor Finkelstein relates. "Superbosses are willing to do these kind of crazy things. It's almost like an analogue way to run a business in a digital world."

Sydney Finkelstein, Leadership and Strategy Speaker: Keynote


Sydney Finkelstein, Leadership and Strategy Speaker: Keynote



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


An innovative leader at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, Sydney Finkelstein is unrivaled at uncovering the "why's?" and "how's" of both success and catastrophe in the world of business. His keynotes bring decades of field research to the stage as he provides added insight on strategy, leadership, and his observations of human nature on and off the job. Professor Finkelstein shows audiences the markers of both failure and success, how to spot early warning signs even if you are an outsider to a company, what to do to stop companies before they crash, and how to set them in a new direction, particularly in a tumultuous environment that's constantly changing.

Why Smart Executives Fail – and What to do About It
One of the most remarkable findings from Why Smart Executives Fail is that the underlying reasons for failure in many business breakdowns. In this speech, Sydney identifies four destructive syndromes, and outlines a series of steps companies can take to avoid them.

Irrational Strategies and How to Fix Them
Irrational strategies exist when key decision makers know exactly what is happening in their industries, among competitors, or in customer circles, yet they fail to respond. Instead, they often continue with the strategies of the past, or adopt even more inappropriate policies to address the challenges they faced.

What are the different types of organization mindset failures that serve as guideposts for disaster? How can executives ensure that they don’t fall into the same traps? This speech brings together a wealth of research evidence, and literally dozens of real-world examples, to demonstrate how irrational strategies emerge and how to fix them.

The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful People
Is it possible to pinpoint just what makes smart, previously successful people, go wrong? The answer is yes! Again and again, whether CEOs, senior executives, or mid-level managers, the same bad habits keep appearing in failing companies. In this speech, Sydney demonstrates how such apparently beneficial habits are actually destructive when left unchecked, and offers an alternative view of leadership that has applicability up and down the management hierarchy.

SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent
Larry Ellison. Lorne Michaels. Ralph Lauren. Robert Noyce. George Lucas. Miles Davis. And a dozen others. Business leaders and creative icons with tremendous track records who all have something else in common: they helped develop the best talent in their industries, who in turn helped them become the legendary successes they are today.

Based on ten years of research and hundreds of interviews, Superbosses describes what these exceptional leaders did, and how they did it. In his keynote, Sydney will describe the “superboss playbook”, the key management practices that separate the best bosses from the merely good ones, and the pathway to becoming a better leader yourself. 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.”

The Transformers
Why Don’t People Learn? There are few things as important to organizational success than adapting to change. But who are we talking about? The answer: people. Managers are on the front-lines in helping companies cope with competitive and technological challenges, yet so often they keep going back to the same playbook that worked in the past. When you dig beneath the surface, you come to the realization that people are just not as good at learning to change and adapt at they need to be. Why is this the case, and importantly, what can we do about it?



Sydney Finkelstein Speaker Testimonials Back to top

"Everyone was very impressed by Sydney’s presentation, it was a big hit and he was great to work with!"
- DLA Piper




* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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"Everyone was very impressed by Sydney’s presentation, it was a big hit and he was great to work with!"
- DLA Piper


Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent
A GOOD BOSS HITS HIS GOALS AND LEADS HIS TEAM. A SUPERBOSS BLOWS AWAY HER GOALS BY BUILDING AN ARMY OF NEW LEADERS. WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER BE?

What do football coach Bill Walsh, restaurateur Alice Waters, television executive Lorne Michaels, technol­ogy CEO Larry Ellison, and fashion pioneer Ralph Lauren have in common? On the surface, not much, other than consistent success in their fields. But below the surface, they share a common approach to finding, nurturing, leading, and even letting go of great people. The way they deal with talent makes them not merely success stories, not merely organization builders, but what Sydney Finkelstein calls superbosses. They’ve all transformed entire industries.

After ten years of research and more than two hundred interviews, Finkelstein has concluded that superbosses exist in nearly every industry, from the glamorous to the mundane. If you study the top fifty leaders in any field, as many as one-third will have once worked for a superboss.

While superbosses differ in their personal styles, they all focus on identifying promising newcomers, inspiring their best work, and launching them into highly successful careers—while also expanding their own networks and building stronger companies.

By sharing the fascinating stories of superbosses and their protégés, Finkelstein explores a phenomenon that never had a name before. And he shows how each of us can emulate the best tactics of superbosses to create our own powerful networks of extraordinary talent.

Why Smart Executives Fail – and What to do About It
One of the most remarkable findings from Why Smart Executives Fail is that the underlying reasons for failure in many business breakdowns. In this speech, Sydney identifies four destructive syndromes, and outlines a series of steps companies can take to avoid them.

Irrational Strategies and How to Fix Them
Irrational strategies exist when key decision makers know exactly what is happening in their industries, among competitors, or in customer circles, yet they fail to respond. Instead, they often continue with the strategies of the past, or adopt even more inappropriate policies to address the challenges they faced.

What are the different types of organization mindset failures that serve as guideposts for disaster? How can executives ensure that they don’t fall into the same traps? This speech brings together a wealth of research evidence, and literally dozens of real-world examples, to demonstrate how irrational strategies emerge and how to fix them.

The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful People
Is it possible to pinpoint just what makes smart, previously successful people, go wrong? The answer is yes! Again and again, whether CEOs, senior executives, or mid-level managers, the same bad habits keep appearing in failing companies. In this speech, Sydney demonstrates how such apparently beneficial habits are actually destructive when left unchecked, and offers an alternative view of leadership that has applicability up and down the management hierarchy.

SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent
Larry Ellison. Lorne Michaels. Ralph Lauren. Robert Noyce. George Lucas. Miles Davis. And a dozen others. Business leaders and creative icons with tremendous track records who all have something else in common: they helped develop the best talent in their industries, who in turn helped them become the legendary successes they are today.

Based on ten years of research and hundreds of interviews, Superbosses describes what these exceptional leaders did, and how they did it. In his keynote, Sydney will describe the “superboss playbook”, the key management practices that separate the best bosses from the merely good ones, and the pathway to becoming a better leader yourself. 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.”

The Transformers
Why Don’t People Learn? There are few things as important to organizational success than adapting to change. But who are we talking about? The answer: people. Managers are on the front-lines in helping companies cope with competitive and technological challenges, yet so often they keep going back to the same playbook that worked in the past. When you dig beneath the surface, you come to the realization that people are just not as good at learning to change and adapt at they need to be. Why is this the case, and importantly, what can we do about it?


Sydney Finkelstein, Leadership and Strategy Speaker: Keynote Excerpts


Based on the in-depth research of his latest book, Sydney Finkelstein outlines what superior bosses do differently from the rest of us. Using real life examples and familiar names, he provides a fascinating glimpse into how these extraordinary individuals' approaches to finding and inspiring their talent propel an exponential difference.

Brushing by the typical hiring process of sorting out resumes according to specific skills and then picking the person that seems to display those qualifications, Professor Finkelstein reveals that superbosses have quite the reverse style of recruiting: they spot talent and then create a job for that person.

One of his favorite stories illustrating this involves Ralph Lauren going out to dinner and striking up a conversation with a woman at a nearby table, because he was intrigued by the way she had mixed and matched different pieces of clothing to put together the outfit she was wearing. "He said, 'Maybe you could come by the office tomorrow. I'd love to offer you a job.' And then he gave her his card. She didn't know who he was," Professor Finkelstein relates. "Superbosses are willing to do these kind of crazy things. It's almost like an analogue way to run a business in a digital world."

Sydney Finkelstein, Leadership and Strategy Speaker: Keynote


Sydney Finkelstein, Leadership and Strategy Speaker: Keynote