Faculty Directory

Sydney Finkelstein

Associate Dean for Executive Education; Steven Roth Professor of Management; Interim Faculty Director, Center for Leadership



DegreePhD, Columbia University, 1988; MSc, London School of Economics, 1981; BComm, Concordia University, 1980

AREAS OF EXPERTISELeadership and strategy

Current Research Topics

  • Developing leadership talent
  • Why smart executives fail
  • Early warning signs for corporate disasters
  • Learning from mergers and acquisitions
  • Board of director effectiveness

Selected Publications

  • With J. Kim and J. Haleblian, “When Firms Become Desperate to Grow via Acquisition: The Effect of Growth Patterns and Acquisition Experience on Acquisition Premiums," Administrative Science Quarterly, 2011
  • How to Avoid a Bad Call, FT Press, 2010
  • With A. Campbell and J. Whitehead, "Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions," Harvard Business Review, February, 2009
  • With J. Kim, "The Effects of Strategic and Locational Complementarity on Acquisition Performance: Evidence from the U.S. Commercial Banking Industry, 1989-2001," Strategic Management Journal, 30, 2009
  • With J. Whitehead and A. Campbell, Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It From Happening to You, Harvard Business School Press, 2009
  • With D.C. Hambrick and A. Cannella, Strategic Leadership: Theory and Research on Executives, Top Management Teams, and Boards, Oxford University Press, 2008
  • With C. Helfat, W. Mitchell, M. Peteraf, H. Singh, D. Teece, and S. Winter, Dynamic Capabilities: Understanding Strategic Change in Organizations, Blackwell Publishing, 2007
  • Why Smart Executives Fail: And What You Can Learn From Their Mistakes, Portfolio, 2003
  • With A. Mooney, "Not the Usual Suspects: How to Use Board Process to Make Boards Better," Academy of Management Executive, May 2003
  • With J.B. Quinn and P.C. Anderson, "Managing Professional Intellect: Making the Most of the Best," Harvard Business Review, 74 (March–April), 1996


  • Finalists for the Academy of Management Terry Book Award, 2010 (“Strategic Leadership,” and “Think Again”)
  • Emerald Management Reviews Citation of Excellence (for having been selected as one of the 50 best articles published in 2009 (out of 15,000) in management) for “Inappropriate Attachments”
  • Elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Management in 2007
  • Article included in Special issue: Classic Articles from AME, which “reprises and celebrates the most enduring articles from its past as chosen by the editors.” Academy of Management Executive, 2005
  • Finalist for the Academy of Management Executive Best Article of the Year, 2004
  • Honorable Mention for the McKinsey & Co. SMS Best Conference Paper Prize, 2002
  • Finalist for the Academy of Management’s George R. Terry Award, 1998
  • Academy of Management Executive Best Article of the Year, 1997
  • Selected as one of the “Best Papers,” SMS Annual Conference, 1997
  • Citations of Excellence, ANBAR Management Intelligence, for "Interindustry Merger Patterns" (1998) and “Leveraging Intellect" (1997)
  • Ascendant Scholar, Western Academy of Management, 1993
  • The Leadership Research Fund, The Leadership Institute, USC, 1993
  • Zumberge Faculty Research and Innovation Fund, USC, 1991-1992
  • Cenafoni Award for Best Research Proposal in Entrepreneurship, 1991
  • A.T. Kearney Award Finalist, 1988
  • Irwin Foundation Fellowship, 1986-1987

Professional Activities

Academic positions

  • Tuck School of Business, 1993–present
  • Assistant Professor of Business Administration, University of Southern California, 1987–93 

Board memberships

  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Assembly of Overseers, Kimball Union Academy

Editorial positions

  • Editorial Boards
    Journal of Business Strategy
    Journal of Strategy and Management

Research & Teaching

Sydney Finkelstein’s approach to leadership and strategy focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of executive talent. His widely read research analyzes how capable leaders make bad decisions and, ultimately, fail. He teaches the core course Analysis for General Managers.