By Sydney Finkelstein
New York, NY: Portfolio Penguin (2016)
Paperback, 268 pages

Reviewed by JOSEPH BATES

Sydney Finkelstein’s book, Superbosses, provides a thorough, yet concise summary of discipleship (mentorship) at its highest level. Finkelstein brings to life his philosophy as he explores the mindset and techniques of superbosses with proven records and phenomenal results. The success and failures of superbosses in the corporate, sports, and small business world beautifully illustrate the power of the “superboss.”

The opening chapter highlights what a superboss is and gives the background to how the superboss concept was discovered. As I started reading the book, I began to question if the concept was out of touch with the common leader. Finkelstein highlighted, in my opinion, super exceptions rather than superbosses. However, as I continued to read, my misguided attitude quickly shifted to an enthusiastic belief in his philosophy.

Finkelstein examined some of the most successful coaches, publishers and business owners of our time. The success these men experienced is very clearly connected to the superboss philosophy. Over the course of the book the author weaves his superboss philosophy into the life and experience of these men.

Leadership theory and books often focus on the leader and his ability to effectively accomplish change, increase productivity, and grow the bottom line. Superbosses was a unique read in that it focuses on creating a team of the highest level skill, talent, and effort. Superbosses places the highest value on developing a team of people that will often exceed the skill, knowledge, and talents of the boss himself or herself.

A primary focus for the superboss is developing people who will ultimately be so highly developed that they become overqualified and eventually outgrow their positions. The example of Bill Walsh the football coach was absolutely perfect. This one football coach is personally responsible for producing “almost twice as many active NFL coaches as the next most prolific spawner” (p. 16).

The book Superbosses is essentially a playbook for leaders seeking to grow their influence beyond the borders of their own organization. As a church leader, we should seek to find ways to reach beyond the pages of our church membership rolls. This book, although written in a secular context, provides clear and practical insights, methods, and principles that will positively affect the reach of the gospel.

There has long been a disconnect between church membership and discipleship. Superbosses provides leaders of Christian churches access to a discipleship model that is proven to work. The author emphasizes the personal development of each person within the organization. As people realize their true potential, are inspired, trained, equipped, and set free to accomplish their god given purpose in life, they will grow and pursue excellence with a passion rarely seen.

I will be implementing the concepts in this book within my business and my church throughout the next several months. One area where I have experienced this concept is through the apprentice relationship. My training is as a plumber. Plumbers in my state serve a five-year apprenticeship under a master plumber. I was blessed to be able to work rather than attend school and have flourished as an employee, owner/operator of my own business, and now an employer and owner of a larger plumbing company.

As a lay pastor, I have had the opportunity to work under other pastors and church leaders to receive my training. As illustrated in the book, there is no substitute for a hands on, mentor/mentee relationship to develop the skills and experience necessary to be successful. The premise of Superbosses rests on the relationship between the leader and those being led. Discovering and developing the people under the leader is paramount in the success of the leader.

Superbosses do not focus on the success of the company they manage. Superbosses focus on their passion. The leadership of the church would do well to focus their attention on what stirs their hearts and what inspired them to enter ministry. As the leader continues to pursue their passion, Jesus, they will move those under them to pursue the very same thing. Nothing inspires people more than someone who is inspired. There are stifling effects to maintaining a structure over pursuing passion.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The author challenges the leader to the very core. He attacks the one thing that makes a leader great and at the same time is the greatest weakness—pride. Humility is the key to becoming a superboss. One must be willing to see the disciple surpass the teacher. The disciple must become more capable than the teacher. In so doing, the leader’s influence will multiply beyond their imagination.

Joseph Bates makes his home in Aitken, Minnesota, where he serves as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor.

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