Bill Conaty

How Steve Jobs gets things done

January 25, 2011: 11:44 AM ET

Brilliant, iconic, visionary, yes. But buzzwords aside, understanding Steve Jobs' success requires breaking it down. Like this.

By Bill Conaty and Ram Charan, contributors

Apple's Steve Jobs

Apple's Steve Jobs

If businesses managed their money as carelessly as they manage their people, most would be bankrupt.

The great majority of companies that control their finances masterfully have no comparable processes for developing their leaders or even pinpointing which ones to develop. While they're disciplined and vigilant on the financial side, their efforts around recruiting, assessing, and developing leaders lack rigor. They depend on checklists of vague cliches such as "strategic," "innovative," "great communicator," "very bright," "analytic," or "intuitive" and settle for superficial impressions. Consequently their talent management remains hit-or-miss. These are the companies that wake up some morning suddenly realizing they need a new CEO but don't know where to start looking. More pervasively, by repeatedly putting the wrong people into the wrong jobs, they waste both human and financial capital when those people don't perform.

Talent masters such as GE (GE), P&G, Hindustan Unilever, Novartis, and Agilent dig deeper to understand an individual's talents. They are keen observers of people, and they have discipline and expertise, honed over many years, to turn observation into verifiable fact. They develop intimacy with their leaders, meaning they understand each leader's unique combination of talents in specific terms. That arms them with the insight they need to make good decisions about where each leader will excel. More

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