ATD Blog

Book Review - Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Overview: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." This quote by Derek Bok, American lawyer and educator, sums up what I consider to be the bottom line of 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 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, it should be adopted widely as the gold standard of leadership development.

More leadership book reviews by Steve Gladis can be found at

About the Author

A leadership speaker and executive coach, Steve Gladis, PhD, is an authority on the topic of leadership. CEO of Steve Gladis Leadership Partners—a leadership development company—he is also the author of 25 books on leadership. A professor at George Mason University, he serves as a senior scholar in its Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Gladis works with businesses, associations, and US government agencies, and he speaks regularly at conferences and corporate off-sites. He is a former faculty member at the University of Virginia and also served as an FBI special agent and was a decorated officer in the US Marine Corps. His company donates a significant portion of corporate profits back to the community.
Some of his books include Leading Teams: Understanding the Team Leadership Pyramid; Leading Well: Becoming a Mindful Leader-Coach; The Trusted Leader: Understanding the Trust Triangle; Smile. Breathe. Listen: The 3 Mindful Acts for Leaders; Self-Leadership: Become the CEO of your Own Career; Solving the Innovation Mystery; and Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work.

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