Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan (Crown Business, 2010) reviewed by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., February 2011.
Overview: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." This quote by Derek Bok, American lawyer and educator, sums up what I would consider to be the bottom line of this book, Talent Masters. Bill Conaty, former senior VP for Human Resources at General Electric under legendary leader and leadership developer Jack Welsh, and Ram Charan, prolific writer, educator and coach to many leading companies, have teamed up to write this “Bible” on leadership talent development. Truly a tour de force, Talent Masters argues persuasively that the main job of a CEO, and key leaders for that matter, is to develop future talent—emerging leaders who will create corporate value and who will take the current executives’ places when the time comes. Intentional systems that move talent management from a support function to a core business element remain at the heart of their argument—where the system is the solution (almost sounds like a GE tag line). They make their case using mini-case studies from GE, Hindustan Unilever, Procter and Gamble, UniCredit, CDR, and TPG. They present readers four integrated sections: describing what a talent master does (succession planning and leadership development); the special expertise of such masters (growing the pipeline and building capacity through experiences); becoming a talent master (setting the right values and behaviors, as well as getting the right Talent Management process in place); and, offering a tool kit of things to get the ball rolling. This book should be on the discussion list of every YPO, Vistage, and Renaissance group of CEOs and leaders. Equally, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) should adopt it as its gold standard of leadership development.