高德威正在感受音乐的节奏。他啜饮了一口激浪饮料，不时伴随着Jay-Z那首《Hard Knock Life》中悸动的贝斯音摇头晃脑。这位霍尼韦尔国际公司（Honeywell International）——年营收达371亿美元的世界最大工业集团之一——的首席执行官身着他常穿的工作服：年代久远的短皮夹克、宽松的牛仔裤和沉重的工作靴。霍尼韦尔总部位于新泽西州莫里斯县，无甚奢华之处，仿佛还停留在上世纪60年代。波士顿红袜队的球衣点缀着墙壁，他身后的背景则是一座容量达210加仑的鱼缸，那是高德威的前任留给他的。需要灵感的时候，他会寻求iTunes与Shuffle播放器的帮助。“我在服务器上存了1万首歌，”他说。“音乐从不停歇！”
高德威本人也一样闲不住。听着比莉•荷莉戴的《God Bless the Child》和尼尔•戴蒙德的《Forever in Blue Jeans》背景下，他忽然不再讲个人经历，而是谈起了商业远见，话题的转换就像音乐流派的变幻一样灵活自然。高德威回忆了他年轻时在缅因州捕捞鳕鱼的冒险经历，不过从他的嗓音中，可以听出他是在新罕布什尔州长大。片刻之后，他又开始解释涡轮增压器技术，然后大谈特谈他2010年为辛普森-鲍尔斯赤字委员会效劳的经历。高德威警告说：“令人惊奇的是，即使我国经济增长强劲，未来赤字仍将非常高。”
高德威担任霍尼韦尔首席执行官刚满10年，他领导下的企业复兴确实是近年来首屈一指的案例。如今霍尼韦尔已成为多元化工业巨头中的佼佼者，从它为股东带来的回报谈起吧。2003年初以来，霍尼韦尔的股价从24美元涨至60%，再算上股息，投资者的累计回报率高达215%。霍尼韦尔的这一表现在工业集团中排行第二，仅次于回报率达229%的丹纳赫公司（Danaher），领先于回报210%的联合技术公司（United Technologies）。至于艾默生电气（Emerson Electric，158%）、3M（80%）和高德威的老东家通用电气（GE，9.4%），无不相形见绌。同一期间，标普500指数涨幅只有88%。CNBC财经电视台主持人、前对冲基金经理吉姆•克莱默恰巧住在高德威隔壁——新泽西州时髦小城Summit。他评价说：“高德威将霍尼韦尔转型为一家增长强劲的科技公司。他是这个时代最优秀的首席执行官之一，但行事低调、罕受关注。”
Dave Cote is feeling the beat. He takes a sip of Mountain Dew and bobs his head in time to the throbbing bass of Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life." The CEO of Honeywell International, one of the world's largest industrial conglomerates, with $37.1 billion in sales, is wearing his usual work attire -- a beat-up leather bomber jacket, baggy jeans, and clunky work boots. Cote's office in the company's frozen-in-the-1960s headquarters in Morris County, N.J., is nothing fancy. Boston Red Sox jerseys adorn the walls, and a 210-gallon fish tank he inherited gurgles in the background. But for inspiration, he turns to his iTunes and hits SHUFFLE. "I've got 10,000 songs on my server," he says. "The music never stops!"
Neither does Cote. While tunes like Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child" and Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans" play in the background, Cote leaps from his personal history to business insights as nimbly as the music changes genres. You can hear Cote's New Hampshire upbringing in his voice as he recounts his youthful adventures as a cod fisherman in Maine. Moments later he's explaining the technology of turbochargers. Then he veers into his service on the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission in 2010. "What amazed me is how bad future deficits will be even if we have strong growth," warns Cote.
Cote (pronounced CO-tee) is an increasingly rare commodity in the business world: an independent thinker who's the antithesis of a slick, prepackaged CEO. The 59-year-old fills a room not because he's an imperial type who prizes pomp, but because he's a rough-hewn leader who demands accountability. Says Honeywell director Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines: "He took us from a disaster to a hell of a company. And he never beat his chest while he was doing it."
Indeed, Cote, who recently logged his 10th anniversary as CEO, has orchestrated one of the best corporate comebacks in recent memory. Today Honeywell (HON) ranks as a top performer among the diversified industrials, starting with how it has rewarded shareholders. Since the start of 2003, Honeywell's stock has surged from $24 to $60. Investors have reaped a total return, including dividends, of 215%. That puts Honeywell in second place among industrial conglomerates -- just behind Danaher (DHR), which returned 229%, and ahead of United Technologies (UTX), which has returned 210%. Honeywell's returns wax those of Emerson Electric (EMR) (158%), 3M (MMM) (80%), and Cote's alma mater, GE (GE) (9.4%). In the same period the S&P returned 88%. "Cote has transformed Honeywell into a technology company with strong growth," says Jim Cramer, the CNBC host and former hedge fund manager who also happens to be Cote's next-door neighbor in tony Summit, N.J. "This is one of the great CEOs of our time, yet he's stayed below the radar."