Executive Intelligence

Today is popular to put an emphasis on the importance of Emotional Intelligence in order to be successful manager and leader. This emphasis is valuable and made an important contribution to the discussion on which competences are necessary for great leadership (although sometimes overestimated). The author Justin Menke points out in a rather different direction. In his book Executive Intelligence – What All Great Leaders Have he argues that the high Executive Intelligence is crucial competence that distinguish star leaders from other leaders.

I think that various perspectives on the complex topic of great leadership are necessary and there isn’t ‘the one that says it all’. In line with that idea, I would like to present some key points from Justin Menke’s book.

Executive Intelligence is a distinct set of aptitudes that determine one’s success in the three central contexts of work: the accomplishment of tasks, working with and through other people and assessing/adapting oneself.

Executive Intelligence consists of a set of consistent, interrelated skills that forms the foundation of smart executive behaviour and affects every aspect of professional decision-making.

Lack of Executive Intelligence is a pervasive problem in the most senior ranks, and it is responsible for some of the most catastrophic business failures.

Surveys have shown that 80 percent of executives feel that their peers frequently fail to achieve their objectives, and half of those surveyed had no confidence that their colleagues could ask the appropriate questions needed to take proper action.

Companies with more Executive Intelligence distributed throughout their ranks have a competitive advantage, because they use available resources more effectively than their competitors.

Star leaders possess high Executive Intelligence, which in large part determines why they are so successful.

Assembling teams of “clear thinkers,” those with high executive intelligence, is essential for organizational success.

The foundation of Executive Intelligence, critical thinking, has been identified by academic researchers and business leaders alike as being central to success.

Critical thinking determines how skilfully someone gathers, processes, and applies information in order to identify the best way to reach a particular goal or navigate a complex situation.

Critical thinking is the best guide we have for discovering the “right answers,” because it allows one to identify and use all information that has value for that purpose and to resist irrelevant or unreliable considerations, however tempting they may be.

Schematic descriptions or step-by-step decision-making guides are inadequate because the secret behind a star’s success lies in his or her ability to create a solution tailored to suit each situation that arises.

Executive Intelligence not only allows one to develop a successful strategy; it also directly influences the effectiveness with which an executive sees a project through to completion.

Great leaders remain deeply involved in their businesses by asking the tough questions and challenging their people’s thinking through a systematic process of rigorously discussing what is happening, what should be happening, and how things are being done.

It is a leader’s capacity for this pointed dialogue that determines how well he or she executes a strategy.

Too many business leaders take action without thinking and are completely unaware of the costs of this tendency.

Critical thinking has become synonymous with “paralysis by analysis” while taking immediate action has been mistakenly characterized as a uniformly positive practice.

In order to create an appropriate test of Executive Intelligence we must first understand the difference between knowledge and intelligence.  The most common executive-assessment methodologies focus purely on knowledge and provide no measure of intelligence.

Knowledge refers to information that one can recall about a subject, while intelligence determines how skilfully one uses such information to achieve a particular goal.

Knowledge and intelligence are interdependent. One cannot be applied effectively without the other, and they are both necessary to reach a sound conclusion.

The cognitive skills that make up Executive Intelligence all represent activities that determine how well one processes the information available in order to render a sound conclusion.

The cognitive abilities that comprise Executive Intelligence can be learned, practiced, and improved.

Executive Intelligence is best taught using a Socratic method not unlike that used in law schools. It calls for a small-group environment and a trained facilitator.

The payoff from improving an individual’s thinking skills can have a profound, positive effect on his or her co-workers and the organization as a whole.