Visionary companies produce a continual stream of high-caliber leaders.
While the visionary companies studied often had outstanding CEOs at their helm at one time or another, what was even more impressive was their ability to continually produce such high-quality leaders.
The organizations focused hard on cultivating managerial talent within the company so that new leaders could be counted on to continue in line with the company's core ideology.
At the same time, visionary companies engaged in timely succession-planning to ensure continuity in leadership even if something unexpected were to happen.
Consider for example the General Electric Company (GE), whose most famous CEO is without a doubt, the legendary Jack Welch.
But actually thanks to the company's fervent emphasis on internal management training and CEO succession, GE has enjoyed a century of Welch-caliber CEOs.
In fact, more GE alumni have gone on to become executives of American corporations than the alumni of any other company.
And Welch himself outlined his plan for succession seven years before retiring, though even this seems last-minute compared to Bob Galvin, the former CEO of Motorola, who began planning for the next generation a quarter-century before finally leaving.
In contrast, the comparison companies often hired external CEOs who were unfamiliar with the company and who sometimes began steering it in new, wholly ill-conceived directions.
Also, the CEOs at comparison companies were often near-tyrannical and engaged in very little succession planning, which left gaping holes in the companies' leadership when they left.
Some comparison companies even had CEOs who actively hindered succession planning and sabotaged would-be candidates.
These companies then stumbled when the troublesome CEO finally left.