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Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don't [Hardcover]

by Ram Charan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 2, 2007 0307341518 978-0307341518 1
The new grand theory of leadership by Ram Charan . . . The breakthrough book that links know-how—the skills of people who know what they are doing— with the personal and psychological traits of the successful leader.

How often have you heard someone with a commanding presence deliver a bold vision that turned out to be nothing more than rhetoric and hot air? All too often we mistake the appearance of leadership for the real deal. Without a doubt, intelligence, vision, and the ability to communicate are important. But something big is missing: the know-how of running a business—the capacity to take it in the right direction, do the right things, make the right decisions, deliver results, and leave the people and the business better off than they were before.

For well over four decades, Ram Charan has been learning in the most visceral way the underlying reasons why leaders succeed and fail. As one of the most influential advisers to top management teams of leading companies around the world, he has had a front-row seat to observe the cause and effect of leadership practices and behaviors.

Ram Charan’s insight into the real content of leadership provides you with the eight fundamental skills needed for success in the twenty-first century:

• Positioning (and, when necessary, repositioning) your business by zeroing in on the central idea that meets customer needs and makes money
• Connecting the dots by pinpointing patterns of external change ahead of others
• Shaping the way people work together by leading the social system of your business
• Judging people by getting to the truth of a person
• Molding high-energy, high-powered, high-ego people into a working team of leaders in which they equal more than the sum of their parts
• Knowing the destination where you want to take your business by developing goals that balance what the business can become with what it can realistically achieve
• Setting laser-sharp priorities that become the road map for meeting your goals
• Dealing creatively and positively with societal pressures that go beyond the economic value creation activities of your business

Know-How is the missing link of leadership. By showing how the eight know-hows link to, interact with, and reinforce personal and psychological traits, Ram Charan provides a holistic and innovative portrait of successful leaders of the twenty-first century.

Editorial Reviews Review

In Know-How, Ram Charan, coauthor of the bestseller Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, gives readers a bold new approach to understanding leadership. Charan suggests that when it comes to choosing our business leaders, we don't recognize the crucial difference between the appearance of leadership and the actual ability to run a business. We focus too much on superficial things, like raw intelligence or a commanding presence, and don't pay near enough attention to the skills leaders need. In his new book, Charan identifies the eight skills leaders must develop and refine, and explains how personal traits factor in. Curious readers can learn more about Know-How: The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don't in our brief Q & A with author Ram Charan, and sneak a peek at the first chapter, below. --Daphne Durham
Q&A with Ram Charan

Q: You identify 8 know-hows. Can you take us through one of them?
A: In this time of continual change, money making or business models are becoming obsolete more frequently than ever before. It wasn't that long ago when AOL was king of the hill. That leadership was taken over by Yahoo. Now Yahoo is at a crossroads and the leadership has been taken over by Google. So far Google is ahead. It has the central recipe to increase its revenues via advertising because it knows how to measure advertising effectiveness better than anybody else. Leaders at both AOL and Yahoo must be scratching their heads trying to figure out how to reposition the company to make money in the new context. Repositioning is a know-how. It's hard work, and it requires imagination. We will have an opportunity to see about the decision made by Time Warner top brass to summarily replace Jim Miller with Randy Falco of NBC Universal. Randy has a distinguished record. He will have to demonstrate one of the most crucial know-hows in this book: Can he reposition AOL for the new game, and in time? Cost cutting is not the answer.

Q: How can you build your know-how, or help others develop theirs?
A: No talented athlete ever became a champion without consistent regular practice in the right way, along with feedback and hard work. There are no short cuts.That's why you should start practicing early in your career by taking assignments that will help you cultivate the know-hows and seeking out bosses you can learn from.

Q: Many people think of leaders as having innate traits that set them apart from the rest of us. Are you saying we should be looking at skills instead of personality?
A: At the time somebody enters the work force, a great deal of his or her personality has been formed. Most people who talk about leadership today talk about personality, personality, personality. Personality traits, presence, charisma--they will experience attrition if you don't practice them in the context of know-hows. Personality traits and know-hows reinforce each other. In the 21st century, the transparency of results is immediate. Failure is detected very early. Dependence on personality traits without the mastery of the know-hows is a recipe for disaster.

Q: What do you think about the future?
A: The future is very bright. The global economy will continue to expand. There will be more demand for leaders than ever before. Master the know-hows. Hone your personality traits while you're mastering the know-hows. Don't forget that your success must come in the context of global competition. Take the opportunity to win.

Read the First Chapter of Know-How

The Substance of Successful Leaders

Know-how is what separates leaders who perform--who deliver results--from those who don't. It is the hallmark of people who know what they are doing, those who build longterm intrinsic value and hit short-term targets. What gets in the way of finding people who can perform is the appearance of leadership. All too often I see people being chosen for leadership jobs on the basis of superficial personal traits and characteristics, such as:

• The seduction of raw intelligence: "He's extremely bright, incisive, and very analytical. I just feel in my gut he can do the job."

• A commanding presence and great communication skills: "That presentation was awesome. How she ever boiled down all that data onto the PowerPoints is beyond me. She certainly had the committee in the palm of her hand. Mark my words, she's going to the top."

• The power of a bold vision: "What a picture he painted of where we are going, moving forward."

• The notion of a born leader: "The people in the unit love her. Such a morale builder and motivator!"

Certainly intelligence, self-confidence, presence, the ability to communicate, and having a vision are important. But being highly intelligent doesn't mean that a person has the knack for making good business judgments. How many times have you seen people confidently making decisions that turn out to be disastrous? How often have you heard a vision that turned out to be nothing more than rhetoric and hot air? Read more from Chapter 1...


"This is the leadership book for the new generation. It's not about climbing to the top of the heap. It's about substance- becoming the kind of leader who makes the right decisions time and time again. If you want to make your business, yourself, and your world better, use this book as your guide."
–Ron Meyer, president and COO, Universal Studios

"If you believe (as I do) that 'leaders are made,' or more precisely, choose to lead and to develop their skills as leaders, then you will find Ram Charan's very practical book on the eight 'know-hows' that are the foundation for leadership performance and success a very worthwhile read."
–A.G. Lafley, chairman and CEO, Proctor & Gamble

"Ram Charan has hit the nail on-the-head by constructively linking personal attributes and business success. His is an important message at an important time for business leaders."
–James McNerney, Jr., chairman, president and CEO, The Boeing Company

"Ram Charan cuts through the fog and 'mystique of the leader' with bold, fresh insights into the real substance of business leadership. What is truly pathbreaking is Know-How's integration of the eight skills for running a business with the personal and psychological traits of the successful leader. It is the must-have book if you want to differentiate yourself from the pack."
–Bill Conaty, senior vice president, human resources, General Electric

"Uniquely Charan. Pactical, insightful, application-oriented and full of wisdom. Read it and then refer to i frequently to enrigh your career. A real treasure."
–Larry Bossidy, retired chairman and CEO of Honeywell International and co-author of Execution and Confronting Reality

"Know-How is the distilled wisdom of one of our era's most insightful business minds. How do you achieve great business performance? Ram Charan knows how."
–Geoffrey Colvin, editor-at-large, Fortune magazine

"What Peter Drucker's The Practice of Management and The Effective Executive were to the 20th century industrial age, Ram Charan's Know-How is to the 21st century global digital knowledge worker age. Brilliant, immensely practical and comprehensive- with almos self evident prophetic wisdom. But, as we all know, what is common sense is seldom common practice."
–Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit

"Know-How brings the complex subject of business leadership down to earth with practial advice on what you really need to know to run a business."
–Michael J. Critelli, chairman and CEO, Pitney Bowes

"Know-How puts to rest a lot of myths and false assumptions about the job of a leader. In a commonsense, practical way, it provides eight how-tos that are the foundation of leadership. Know-How is a breakthrough book for leaders and those who aspire to a leadership job."
–James M. Kilts, Centerview Partners, former chairman and CEO of Gillette

"Ram has an unparalleled track record of providing executives with compelling yet practical advice on how to succeed in tumultuous business environments. Know-How continues the tradition, defining in detail the performance factors that can give executives a competitive edge no matter how markets evolve."
–Ivan G. Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307341518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307341518
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ram Charan is the coauthor of bestsellers Execution and Confronting Reality and the author of What the CEO Wants You to Know and 10 other books. A noted expert on business strategy, execution, building a high-performance organization, 21st century leadership, corporate boards and succession, he has worked with leaders of some of the world's most successful companies, including GE, Bank of America, Verizon, Coca-Cola, 3M, Merck, Aditya Birla Group, and Tata Group.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
128 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Substance of Leadership January 2, 2007
In an era of constant change, there is a crying need for leadership. Although change is a constant, today's magnitude, speed and depth, is unlike previous renditions. Multibillion dollar businesses emerge from nowhere. Highly-valued institutions and organizations are rendered impotent over-night.

Yet, many cling to choosing future leaders on the basis of superficial personal traits and characteristics. How many times have you heard an anointed future leader described as "intelligent," "a commanding presence," "a great communicator," "having a bold vision," or "a born leader?"

Ram Charan, a consultant with a Harvard Business School MBA and doctorate, has identified, eight skills - he calls them "know-hows" - essential for leadership success:

1. Positioning and Repositioning. The ability to find an idea for the organization that meets customers' demands and makes money.

2. Pinpointing External Change. The ability to identify patterns that place the organization on the offensive.

3. Leading the Social System. The ability to get the right people with the right behaviors and the right information to make better decisions and business results.

4. Judging People. The ability to calibrate people based on their actions, decisions and behaviors and matches them to the job's non-negotiables.

5. Molding a Team. The ability to coordinate competent, high-ego leaders.

6. Setting Goals. The ability to balance goals that give equal weighting to what the business can become and what it can achieve.

7. Setting Priorities. The ability to define a path and direct resources, actions, and energy to accomplish goals.

8. Dealing with Forces beyond the Market.
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79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know-How - The Critical Linkage to Success January 3, 2007
Why does a gifted person tagged for a leadership role fail when he/she gets there? And how does a leader with little or no education succeed? Best selling author and acclaimed management philosopher, Ram Charan, provides an answer to this paradox in his latest offering, "Know How" by focusing on the critical linkage - know-how - that separates leaders who perform from those who do not.

In the book, Charan details eight critical know-hows observed in the most successful leaders, discusses real life examples of success and failure, and provides a checklist, "Questions to Ask Yourself" for the reader. Charan, relying on his 45 years of observational research, constructs a more complete theory integrating know-how with personality traits, psychological orientation and cognitive architecture. He shows how these know-hows and individual personal traits are interlinked and reinforce each other.

Every leader Charan has known has mastered the nuts and bolts of one or more know-hows early in life and has used these skills over and over again to learn all of the critical know-hows. ...And this is how real leaders are really made.

The eight critical Know-Hows include:

1. Will the Dogs Eat the Dog Food? Positioning and Repositioning the Business to Make Money. Shaping and reshaping the value proposition to meet the needs of an ever changing external landscape. The quality of the leader depends on the ability to sort out so many elements of the complexity of the business and connecting them with the money making formula.

2. Before the Point Tips: Connecting the Dots by Pinpointing and Taking Action on Patterns of External Change. The need to look at the big picture and then work through the messy details. We are in uncharted waters.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm thoroughly disappointed with this book. It's like the elementary school guide for recognizing someone who does things well. It might as well say, if your company makes a lot of profits, it's a good business. There is not a single revolutionary concept or idea in the book's 262 oddly sized pages. Go figure, aligning your business with the market, putting together a good team, setting goals, and anticipating and responding to forces beyond the market are strong traits in a leader. I wish I could include a more in-depth analysis, but there's nothing significant here to analyze. He doesn't go out on any limbs that can be criticized.

That said, I think this book might be of some value as someone's 1st book on leadership because it does a good job of presenting the foundations of a leader (that many other authors have already written volumes about) in a condensed form.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I'm often amused to read descriptions of the responsibilities of corporate boards: "To represent shareholder interests" and "replace the CEO" are two of my favorites. Most boards do everything possible to learn as little as they can about what shareholders favor. Boards are more likely to keep a CEO on too long than they are to find a good replacement.

Dr. Ram Charan takes dead aim at lousy hiring of leaders by sharing many examples where CEOs and other leaders made a great impression during interviews, but didn't have a clue about how to run the company better. You'll probably find yourself scratching your head, for example, about why a former CFO, CEO Rick Wagoner of General Motors, chose to gamble the company's limited financial resources on a foolish charge to gain market share that left the company virtually crippled. CEOs make those kinds of mistakes every day.

What solution does the blunt Dr. Charan propose: It's simple; find people who already know how to do what needs to be done as leaders. He explores this subject at all levels of a large company, which makes the book all the more relevant and interesting.

If boards don't know what CEOs need to know, what are those factors? I've paraphrased Know-How's key points below:

1. Pick a useful direction where the organization can succeed and help your executives to understand why that's the way to go.

2. Stay ahead of the curve on emerging changes in your business and environment by paying attention to new shifts.

3. Turn your individual stars into effective team players so that you can pull together in the right direction.

4. Develop leaders who will have these same skills.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A blue print of leadership
This book presents the essence of what a leader must have and do. without the usual academic nonsense. and is written by someone who truly knows what he is talking about.
Published 3 months ago by Mauricio N.
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 skills everybody needs to follow
Great book for both professional and personal life. Ram explains very well which skills to master and the traits needed to become a great leader
Published 4 months ago by MikeS
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
After reading "What the CEO wants you to know", I expected this book to be of the same calibre. Unfortunately not. Read more
Published on November 26, 2011 by Tell it like it is
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Better Business Books
Yes as others have mentioned there is not a great deal of original material but the use of case studies is what makes this a very good book. Read more
Published on September 15, 2011 by B. Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Very clear framework, so often hard to execute
Charan writes a deceptively clear but difficult to execute outline of what so many business leaders need to pay attention to. Read more
Published on May 8, 2011 by David L. Groth
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical Leadership Principles
Effective leaders don't have to be charasmatic; they do have to be competent, possess unyielding honesty and integrity, and be able to get people they lead to "buy into" their... Read more
Published on December 5, 2009 by Larry Underwood
3.0 out of 5 stars High aims, not much of the result
I start to suspect, that I have too high expectations for business books I read. Still, if on a back cover you read such reviews as:"revolutionary book", or "hits the bull's eye"... Read more
Published on November 10, 2009 by Gustavas Jankauskas
4.0 out of 5 stars How to be or judge a great CEO
The book starts out by discussing a frustrating topic "the appearance of leadership." Unfortunately certain traits can lead people to assume someone would make a good (effective)... Read more
Published on October 30, 2008 by Eric Kassan
4.0 out of 5 stars One tip makes this book worth reading
Don't dismiss this entry in Charan's business guru tips because most of it is basic, commonsense. My rule for business reading is that if you get one good guideline that's relevant... Read more
Published on September 5, 2008 by E. Bruce Harrison
4.0 out of 5 stars Bo Knows Football - Ram Knows Know-How!
Management uber-guru Ram Charan offers a business counterpart to Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" in his book, "Know How. Read more
Published on May 10, 2008 by Kevin Quinley
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