Executive Intelligence

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Executive Intelligence

by Justin Menkes

Collins © 2005, 306 pages, $27.95 (ISBN 0-06-078187-4).

What All Great Leaders Have

According to leadership expert Justin Menkes, all brilliant leaders share a set of common aptitudes that gives them the business savvy they need to become star leaders. In Executive Intelligence, Menkes describes the results of his research on intelligence tests and cognitive skills, as well as hundreds of interviews with many of today’s top CEOs, and builds what he has learned into a formula for business success. Throughout, he explains how three categories of management skills — accomplishing tasks, working with and through other people, and judging oneself and adapting one’s behavior accordingly — present the keys to determining how well an executive will perform. He writes that these cognitive skills are where employers must focus to find the right executives to recruit and promote.

As a director for a managerial assessment provider, Menkes has spent years studying what it takes for business leaders to perform well in their organizations. As an example of the kind of leader companies should seek, Menkes points to Avon CEO Andrea Jung, whose clear thinking and intelligence have helped her lead Avon through an impressive turnaround. Although Jung never went to business school nor had any traditional business training, her brilliance and instinctive business acumen are parts of the “Executive Intelligence” that Menkes describes.

According to Menkes, Executive Intelligence is a distinct type of intelligence and critical thinking that is not necessarily attached to an academic pedigree but plays a critical role in business decision-making.

‘A Costly Distraction’

To Menkes, most of the modern “secrets” of management success — including breaking the rules, managing logistics, expressing empathy, instilling values and communicating a vision — do nothing to explain the core drivers of leadership success. He writes that these theories “constitute a costly distraction from identifying what really causes leadership excellence.”

In his search for the specific cognitive skills that determine success in the business environment, Menkes has developed a new theory of intelligence that counters other methods and theories of management effectiveness “that are gravely inadequate when it comes to differentiating business talent.” Throughout his book, Menkes describes what Executive Intelligence is, how other theories confuse and distract managers from focusing on key performance criteria, how Executive Intelligence can be tested and measured, and how it can be taught.

Menkes writes that “smartness — the intellectual ability to do the job — is one of the primary determinants of whether someone succeeds or fails at managerial work.” He argues that a 12-minute IQ test can predict job performance almost as well as a two-hour job interview. Although he recognizes the challenges of adapting IQ testing for professional assessment, he sets out to develop a theory of intelligence that is appropriate for the business setting and can accurately measure a manager’s relevant cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

A Tale of Two CEOs

To demonstrate the essential role Executive Intelligence plays in business, Menkes cites examples from numerous industries. While detailing how a lack of Executive Intelligence is a pervasive problem for many companies, he describes CEO Roger Smith’s decision to automate production at General Motors to address labor-relations and plant-efficiency problems. Instead of improving plant productivity, Smith’s decision lost GM market share and reduced plant productivity. Menkes writes that Smith failed to question the underlying assumption that robots equal cheaper cars, and failed to anticipate the unintended consequences of his initiative, which included severely limited flexibility and less ability to change product lines.

As a counterpoint to Smith’s lack of Executive Intelligence, Menkes introduces Thoratec Corp. CEO Keith Grossman, who turned the company around by recognizing the flaws in his industry’s conventional wisdom and identifying unintended consequences surrounding the production of a new cardiac-assist device.

Menkes writes, “Executive Intelligence is central to leadership performance because it helps executives articulate considerations that move others, in their own interest, to agree with a decision.” He explains that guiding and persuading others by articulating sound facts and logical conclusions, like Grossman, is how executives skillfully turn thinking into action. ~

Why We Like This Book

By identifying the importance of critical thinking in dozens of real-life business scenarios, Menkes provides many valuable lessons that show top executives how to find the most effective solutions to their toughest managerial challenges. His chapters on measuring intelligence and test formatting offer readers specific ways they can apply his advice when evaluating the people they want to run their organizations. ~

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