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Review: Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have

by Miki Saxon

executive-intelligence.gifJustin Menkes’ Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have shines a hard light on what sets executives apart. Why does one show brilliant insight while another moves at normal levels and yet another badly blows it?

Menkes makes a case that it is intelligence and the resulting cognitive skills that underlie the brilliance seen in executives such as Andrea Jung (Avon Products Inc.), Van Johnson (Sutter Health) and Jack Welch, as opposed to so-called emotional intelligence or charisma.

Menkes idea that it is intelligence that makes the difference is based on eight years of research on intelligence tests and cognitive skills and reveals the set of aptitudes that all brilliant leaders share.

Although 50% of an individual’s intellectual capacity is genetically influenced, Menkes makes the point that the remaining half offers fertile ground for teaching and improving Executive Intelligence. (He cites several studies showing the difference in test scores between students participating in interactive classes that stress critical thinking vs. more typical teaching methods that do well regurgitating information for standardized tests.)

Menkes breaks managerial work down into three areas—accomplishing tasks, working with other people, and self-evaluation—then identifies the cognitive skills that determine how well an executive performs.

  • Tasks – to correctly define a problem, identify the highest-priority issues, assess what is known and determine needs to be known in order to render a sound decision.
  • Others – to recognize underlying agendas, understand multiple perspectives, and anticipate likely emotional reactions throughout the organization.
  • Self – to objectively identify one’s own mistakes, encourage and seek out constructive criticism, and adjust one’s own behavior.

Much of the book relates to how important evaluating intelligence is when hiring and includes discussions with CEOs on their approach to recognizing its presence.

Menkes believes the best way evaluate a candidate’s talent and cognitive skills is found in a set of question that discuss hypothetical business problems, since this most closely mimics the way most business decisions are actually made.

Additionally, that the best tests in hiring measure the ability to accomplish tasks, work with and through others, evaluate oneself and adapt accordingly and he defines 17 critical skills that the best managers use to think their way through problems.

There is much food for thought in Executive Intelligence, but I was sadly disappointed at the lack of concrete how-to’s.

I realize that Menkes heads Executive Intelligence Group, a consulting firm whose revenues are based on providing the questions and other how-to information for it’s clients, but the lack of practical help in applying his excellent research left me with the feeling that the only solution was to hire his company—something completely our of reach to many companies and most startups.

What roll do you think intelligence plays in running a business?

One Response to “Review: Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have”
  1. Management Friday: Playing Defense « The Mama Bee Says:

    […] to make mistakes, and people will stop wanting to contribute to your success.  As Justin Menkes says in his book Executive Intelligence, good leaders encourage and seek out constructive criticism.  Zen Habits has […]

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