How Important Is “Executive Intelligence” for Leaders?

Leadership talent is enjoying a perceived "seller's market," says Jim Heskett. As we select and train future leaders for all levels of our organizations, how much effort do we really spend assessing executive intelligence as opposed to personality and style? What do YOU think? Key concepts include:
  • According to Justin Menkes, executive intelligence is the ability to digest, often with the help of others, large amounts of information in order to form important decisions.
  • Menkes says, "Personality is not a differentiator of star talent. It is an individual's facility for clear thinking or intelligence that largely determines their leadership success."
  • What do you think is the relative importance of executive intelligence, style, and personality in effective leaders?
by James Heskett

Summing Up

Judging from the number of responses to the July column, Justin Menkes, author of the book Executive Intelligence, appears to have tapped into a hot issue with his concern that what he terms "executive intelligence" is underrated, under-measured, and under-experienced in the selection and development of leaders. Some took issue with his definition, a few disagreed with his main thesis, and a number suggested the importance of executive intelligence as only one ingredient in leadership success.

Stephen Burkett said: "… I find that the core of the issue remains the definition of executive intelligence … Executive intelligence is less about number-crunching power or one's grasp of advanced concepts, and more about evaluating situations and taking appropriate action." Quinton van Eeden added, "Executive intelligence seems to be the sum of the parts—emotional intelligence, IQ, personality, values, and experience … A demonstration of executive intelligence must lie in the demonstrable ability to act and execute." Paul Jackson took us to the next step in commenting, "Once defined, how do we measure executive intelligence? Once measured, how do we assess its impact or usefulness?" And, we might add, how do we incorporate it into our everyday assessment of potential or actual leadership talent?

There was a full range of opinions regarding the importance of EI, perhaps in part due to the breadth with which the term was defined in each case. For example, Rowland Freeman opined, "Intelligence is of value, but more important is demonstrated common sense. Some of the most intelligent leaders I have known were failures at leadership." As Malvin Bernal put it, "Executive intelligence will only guarantee a sound processing of information that produces decisions … Execution is the basic ingredient that makes a great leader." On the other hand, Philip Derrow argued, "Executive intelligence, particularly as Mr. Menkes defines it, is, I believe, the most important component for long-term leadership effectiveness … Three words that best describe effective people in any organization: smart and happy. Both the order and the conjunction are important . . . ." Harry Tucci went even further, saying: "The concept of executive intelligence is a very useful measure of success … When it comes to meeting earnings and Street expectations I'll take the manager with his nose deep in a book any day."

Akram Boutros, along with many others, argued for balance in our assessment of the importance of EI, pointing out that "both executive intelligence and instincts are essential. Executive intelligence, however, must precede executive instinct. That is to say, analytics should tell the story; experience should guide the results." John Pullen posited that "The most effective executives have a unique balance of good leadership skills (adaptable personality and style) and the ability to think about issues from a systems-oriented, conceptual perspective … It's not one or the other."

The issue of recognizing the trait arose as well. Le Anh Tuan commented, "The reality is that people … are so busy that they usually fail to examine and see how 'executive intelligent' a leader is . . . ." Terry Rodgers agreed: "The problem is that we are not generally well equipped to evaluate and identify the difference between executive intelligence and personal style. Spotting the fraudsters … is an issue . . . ." This prompts the questions: Has executive intelligence been well-enough defined? How can an organization, beginning with its board of directors, insure that EI is being factored into the selection and development of leaders? What implications does this have for business school curricula? What do you think?

Original Article

The impact of one individual on the performance of an organization has long been debated, and the debate has focused most recently on the controversy over compensation for CEOs. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton cite studies that maintain that no more than 10 percent of the performance of an organization can be attributed to its leader as opposed to other forces. Some might argue that that's a lot. There is also debate about the most important traits of leadership. Some recent studies continue to examine the personality and style attributes of effective leaders. Others are giving more emphasis to certain forms of intelligence.

Jim Collins concluded in his classic study, Good to Great, that among the most important attributes of leaders, people who John Kotter maintains achieve "extremely useful change," was the right mix of humility and a drive for success. More recently, Collins has added to his list (after studying successful leaders in nonprofit organizations) "legislative leadership," the ability to create coalitions both within and outside of organizations. While concluding that leaders have less control than most people think, Pfeffer and Sutton advise them to "act as if they are in control" and "behave in ways that cause others to believe in the possibility of success of both the organization and the leader."

In his recent book, Executive Intelligence, Justin Menkes proposes another set of hypotheses, among them that too much emphasis has been given to personality and style and too little to types of intelligence that enhance leadership performance. He argues that "when it comes to predicting work performance, cognitive-ability tests have been demonstrated to be approximately ten times as powerful as personality assessments. . . . Personality is not a differentiator of star talent. It is an individual's facility for clear thinking or intelligence that largely determines their leadership success." Menkes places his bets on an individual's "executive intelligence," the ability to digest, often with the help of others, large amounts of information in order to form important decisions that produce useful action with the right amount of deliberation.

These sets of views complement one another. But just how much effort do we place on assessing "executive intelligence" as opposed to personality and style in selecting and training those we hope will lead at all levels of organizations? Menkes claims that executive intelligence, as opposed to knowledge (which is more a matter of experience), can be developed through repeated solving of new, unfamiliar problems using information, both relevant and irrelevant, provided for the purpose. K. Anders Ericsson, in the recently published Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, has concluded in addition that the most effective ways of developing this kind of capability involve constant exposure to specific goal setting and immediate feedback.

In your experience, what is the relative importance of executive intelligence, style, and personality in effective leaders? What importance do these findings have for the selection of candidates for, and the design and execution of, formal (MBA) and on-the-job programs for developing leaders? Will they eventually help relieve the perceived "seller's market" in leadership talent? What do you think?

    • CJ Cullinane
    As I look at the most successful business leaders of today I have to say that executive instinct is more important than executive intelligence. Granted they may be one in the same but if you look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and even Warren Buffett, they have an instinct as well as executive intelligence.

    Many of the successful managers of today are successful because of cutting costs and outsourcing but lack the insight or instinct to build and grow. Shifting through massive amounts of information is important, but looking at this information and projecting it into the future is what builds businesses.

    The renumeration of the business builder is most often the result of their initiative and results versus the inflated rewards granted by the Board of Directors for short-term profits. It seems to me that good instincts and the ability to develop a market, such as Steve Jobs did with the iPod and iTunes, creates more wealth than "creative accounting practices," and should be rewarded as such.

    Give me the visionary business builder anytime.
    • Philip Derrow
    • President / CEO, Ohio Transmission Corporation
    Executive intelligence, particularly as Mr. Menkes defines it, is, I believe, the most important component for long-term leadership effectiveness. (I define effectiveness as the ability to make things happen -- to achieve the desired outcome.) Style and personality are important, but primarily because in the absence of adequately positive style and personality traits, even the most clear thinking and decision making will fail to gain traction within the organization. Good ideas and strategies only become great when those who will carry them out perceive them as their own. Conversely, positive style and personality traits without sufficient intellect can make someone a pleasant party companion or even a "nice" boss, but they will never truly be effective leaders, especially when the organization faces significant strategic challenges.

    Several years ago, after more than 20 years in business, I was finally able to distill my thinking on this topic into three words that best describe effective people in any organization: smart and happy. Both the order and the conjuction are important in clarifying the relative importance of and the need for each trait.

    While I believe smart is the price of admission to the party, my HR executive challenged my commitment to the complete principle by asking if I would indeed be willing to fire a technically gifted yet personally morose associate. After thinking for a moment, I responded that because the cancerous effect of negative people is so great, I would reconsider my position only if that person could truly do their job without interacting with either co-workers, customers, or suppliers. However, since no such isolated position exists in our organization, the quesiton was moot.
    • David Skinner
    • Director, Leadership Systems Limited
    Seems to me that we are all victims to our own comfort zones and beliefs as we think about the "right" definition of the profile of a talented executive.

    There seems to be little doubt that the ideal is the person who can balance productive, vision-pulled decision making with the ability to inspire and persuade people to perform and grow. Smart and able to keep others happy, you might say (ref thought-provoking letter from Philip Derrow).

    As a practitioner trying to help individuals develop their executive capabilities, I find that even when talented people have lots of both desired traits, there is always slightly more of one than the other. The devil in in the detail and this even slight inbalance will drive executives to focus their behaviour more on one aspect of their role than the other--especially when they are under stress.

    As a community of interest, I think we still have a long way to go yet to fully describe the formula for executive success. Hopefully the debate will continue!
    • Harry Tucci
    I think the concept of Executive Intelligence is a very useful measure of success, and far more companies would be in far better shape if we relied more on this measure of performance.

    Too often companies want the flamboyant, swashbuckling manager who is charismatic and inspiring to their troops. However, charisma and flair will only get you so far. When it comes to meeting earnings and Street expectations I'll take the manager with his nose deep in a book any day.
    • Anonymous
    Even with the move towards flattening organizations and collaborative approaches, we still tend to place executives on a pedestal. An intelligent executive will draw on the intelligence of his/her team. The importance of an executive as leader and team player, pooling the collective intelligence of his/her workforce, is vital.

    Determining how well execs "play with others" and exhibit leadership and guidance skills is often lost in the milieu of great accomplishments and resume verbage submitted to HR departments. Interviewing some of the potential exec's co-workers and direct reports can provide key insights.
    • Malvin Bernal
    More than executive intelligence, execution is the basic ingredient that makes a great leader. Executive Intelligence will only guarantee a sound processing of information that produces decisions. However, no matter how sound and profound an executive decision may be, if execution is not in tune with the purported vision, then it will only hasten the speed of its failure.

    I have seen executives who are both academically knowledgeable and extremely smart, yet failed to produce the desired business outcome. Though it pays to have "executive intelligence," the ability to turn vision into reality, plans into concrete manfestations, are the stuff that legends are made off.

    True, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett are men of exceptional intelligence, but what made them different is their ability to turn their visions into reality.
    • Steve Kamp
    • Director of Sales
    I believe that one area which also needs to be mentioned is that an effective leader has the ability to put together an effective and well respected team. If no more than 10 percent of the performance of an organization can be attributed to its leader, what percentage will be added to his (her) performance through the placement of a well orchestrated team?
    Organizations do, however, need to rate senior management in more areas than just performance and 360 with their peers. Subordinates should play a larger role in evaluating executive management. This may, in essence, shift a corporate culture but it will benefit the workplace in showing that greater value is placed on workers' feedback. It will also help weed out the executives who may be keeping their leader from reaching his (her) true potential.
    • Anonymous
    My sense is that most firms are jam-packed with managers "who know the numbers" for practical reasons. They tend to be execution oriented and let's face it, in any hierarchical organization, whether the military or corporate version, stuff has to get done every day and done "right." The dilemma, if you will, for people who think like leaders, i.e. - articulating a vision for a better way - is that managers (except at the C-Level) tend not to be impressed with budding leaders. Strategic thinkers or, as they are often described today, "thought leaders," are far too often ignored.

    I have taken part in an exercise where scores of VP level managers went through a two-day session designed to identify and explore MBTI profiles. Purpose? To give us all a richer sense of the "diversity" of mental machinery available in our firm and to understand that not all minds work alike, whatever the knowledge base or educational background. Diversity (gender, race, etc) is promoted throughout corporate America for noble reasons, but I'd wager very few firms actively pursue intellectual diversity, certainly not to the extent that they actively seek to ensure a wide range of thinkers in their management ranks.

    We all left that session with some interesting insights and (for some) new self-awareness. But follow-through to leverage the richness of our mental machinery? BAU, the managers who were all in the same general MBTI profile ... are still there and still favor people who think just like them.

    Ultimately, luck and circumstance have as much to do with someone's ability to rise to a leadership role in a typical corporate setting as any innate aptitude or acquired knowledge. Birds of a feather however do indeed stick together and are very territorial in nature.
    • Margaret O'Keeffe
    • Managing Director, Curious Leaders
    Perhaps it is reasonable to assume that (given existing leadership paradigms and shareholder requirements) current CEOs got their jobs through rational, results-driven executive intelligence. The key question in this debate is how to enhance leadership performance, not drive it per se. In my experience, what enhances leadership is the power to inspire, engage, and motivate people to go beyond their functional remit. This means treating people with respect and seeing them as human beings as opposed to widgets in a big machine.
    • Rowland Freeman
    • Chairman, SCORE Counselors to America's Small Business
    Intelligence is of value, but more important is demonstrated common sense. Some of the most intelligent leaders I have known were failures at leadership, because they hoisted every problem to an academic level and few got solved. They also had problems relating to people of lesser intelligence. No person should be selected to a senior leadership position until leadership qualities are well demonstrated in lesser positions. Academic success is not a good measure, but success with people at all levels is the most valuable attribute. A leader has to lead and people have to agree to follow him or her.

    Some years ago (1953) a very fine study was made on what attributes made a successful executive/leader. For some reason it is not in the Business School library anymore, but I still have a copy. Intelligence was not a principal attribute in the study--it can be hired--but a leader "must think broadly, relate and associate easily and can use weighting and judgement in arriving at logical conclusions. He or she has a lively interest in the world around them and feels some degree of social and economic responsibility."
    • Akram Boutros, MD
    • EVP, COO &CMO, South Nassau Hospital, New York
    I believe both executive intelligence and instincts are essential. Executive intelligence, however, must precede executive instinct. That is to say, analytics should tell the story, experience should guide the results. In my experience what often happens is that people have less than adequate data and are pressed for a decision, thereby necessitating an over-reliance on instinct. Buffett, Jobs, and Gates are all students of data. They examine data from a multitude of perspectives, remaining open to the insights gleaned, and only then impart their "genius."

    As Albert Einstein said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I submit we need both.
    • Anonymous
    Executive intelligence may well be useful and a more worthy assessment point than personality. However, this debate/discussion seems to stand in contrast to the facts of leadership appointments. For example, how is it that in the USA only about 8% of men are above 6' yet 54% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are above 6' tall? Until the issues of primed decision-making, as popularised in the book Blink, are considered, aren't organisations going to remain places where our human biases rule rather than organisational needs? Executive intelligence, like many other attributes, may be admired but never chosen.
    • Anonymous
    I find the concept of Executive Intelligence very interesting. Despite the research that only 10% of performance of an organization can be attributed to an individual, I would beg to differ.

    Executive Intelligence to me is about a "knowing" of the individual (call it instinctual) that allows that person to make an impact in the right way at the right time with the right results or, conversely, know when to draw back from an intervention. An executive intelligent person would also have their fingers on the pulse of the organization and be able to engage others in change. I agree that the person should have a lively interest in life, be a critical thinker and an innovator, and possess a firm grip on their values and social and economic responsibilities not only to the organization but also to the stakeholders.
    • Dan Trudell
    • President, Peak Performance Associates
    Leaders need to engage followers to accomplish work. Intellect or executive intelligence is not more or less important than the ability to clearly communicate a goal and a reason for people to engage together in the achievement of that goal, as well as the ability to support their efforts along the path toward that goal. Balance between logic and emotion, in my experience, are the core elements for success in leadership.
    • Bette Price
    • President, The Price Group
    I couldn't agree more that "personality" is not a differentiator of star talent. As David Novak, Chairman and CEO of Yum Brands, said when we interviewed him for our book, True Leaders, "You can have diverse styles, but you must have aligned values." Values drive the behaviors and, in my opinion, are much more critical than the style. One has to assume that leaders at the executive level have a strong modicum of intelligence. It is therefore how clearly they are able to discern the resolves needed to meet challenges and determine the appropriate implementation that best tests the leader's ability to adequately apply that knowledge.

    The more the developing leader can be exposed to situations in which he/she is challenged to be a part of determining resolves, the more their capabilities will be developed. We find that when young, high potential leaders are actually involved in decision making roles, rather than merely observing, the speed of their development soars.
    • Paul T. Jackson
    • Owner/Consultant, Trescott Research
    Over the last two decades we've been bombarded with information about leadership and executives, and all the possible ideas and definitions that might be associated with the make-up of a Leader. My take is "there are no leaders." There are only people who because of their position, their actions, their successes, are considered to be leaders by followers, but not necessarily by everyone.

    Someone above has mentioned the person's proclivity to action as an important component. Is that part of intelligence? Others suggest the assimilation of facts [according to Justin Menkes or perhaps observations) that lead to a synthisis which then leads toward action or new directions. Is this intelligence? Finding (or observing) a need and filling it, or wanting to fill the need: is this intelligence?

    I've not seen any sufficiently defining studies that really address or can address what makes a leader. Perhaps it is just one's instincts gained from lots of observation and a bit of help from outside knowledge, or help from God, that shows one the directions to take. How do futurists know what's coming? By observing trends, I'm told. Does intelligence include observations, and how we do we define those, as instincts? Once defined, how do we measure executive intelligence? Once measured, how do we assess its impact or usefulness?
    • Firdaus Baderi
    • Executive, Research & Development
    Organizational needs of corporate cultures and attitudes require that leaders use a globalization framework.
    • Keith Koh
    In my humble opinion, although we may find that Executive Intelligence is not being seen as critical most of the time, I can't help but remember the 5% critical rule, where we can work hard for 95% of the time ensuring that all the background work is done best, but when the critical crunch time of 5% is not carried out properly, it can cause the downfall of the whole organisation!

    Part of this 5% from leaders includes putting the right people in the right place at the right time ... and that calls for Executive Intelligence, or intuition, whatever you may call it.
    • Narayanan
    • Associate Fellow - Partnerships, TERI
    In my experience, the best executives are intuitively smart, so executive intelligence which seems to be a variant of smart intuition is very effective. Leaders who seem to take decisions on the basis of executive instinct are in fact quite experienced and usually know the subject. So, essentially, an effective leader will have to be intuitively smart or have good executive intelligence and at the same time he will need to be experienced and knowledgeable.
    • Le Anh Tuan
    • Manager
    I think the executive intelligence of leaders (at different levels) varies depending on how their "intelligence" is shown and perceived by their colleagues at higher positions and within their team/department.

    The reality is that people around are so busy that they usually fail to examine and see how "executive intelligent" a leader is, especially when everything is going well. Yet if the situation allows them to solve a problem they could be seen as "executive intelligent."

    In summary, a talented leader is one who can effectively drive his/her team to achieve the desired goal set forth that finally contributes to achieving the organizational goal. In addition, "Emotional Intelligence" is also a good indicator of how leaders fit themselves into the department or organization, and are as perceived talented and indispensible.
    • Quinton van Eeden
    • KM Consultant, Van Eeden & Associates
    Executive intelligence seems to be the sum of the parts - emotional intelligence, IQ, personality, values and experience. All have a direct influence on the level of executive intelligence.

    The end result of it all and a demonstration of executive intelligence must lie in the demonstrable ability to act and execute. A pity that such leaders are often viewed as "too task-oriented," as mavericks, or as "not fitting into the corporate culture."
    • S K Kotwani
    • Chief Manager, IndusInd Bank Ltd. Mumbai, India
    Executive intelligence is an individual trait, an ability to digest and form an opinion. It provides an additional impetus for the rapid growth of the organisation. Style and personality determine the level of motivation, involvement, and sense of encouragement that people work with.
    • Julie Mairs
    I think that too much is made of a divide between management and leadership. The mature chief executive is adept at both disciplines, knows the business and thus is able to discern what needs to be done for the organization and can organize the resources that will get the appropriate and efficacious action done and done well.

    Execution has two components: Doing the right thing the first time and doing the right thing well. For example: Value to the customer is degraded when the customer is not treated with consideration or attended to in a timely manner.

    The mature chief executive assures an environment in which the desired results (production, quality, value, innovation, change, profits, cost reductions) can be accomplished consistent with all applicable and important standards or expectations of regulators or stakeholders. The tools include intelligence, discernment, listening, planning, communicating, organizing, and controlling for the actions that will drive strategy and accomplish the needed and desired results.
    • Harm Joosse
    • Graduate student
    Of course a leader should have the right personality and style to be able to convince his followers. Although we have formal employee structures, it is a leadership requirement to be able to motivate (and retain) employees. Formal employee structures like contracts and benefits are only two of the employee retention tools.

    In today's business world we see an increasing amount of information. Combine this with regulatory and compliance pressures and it is clear that fact-based judgement and the ability to digest large amounts of information in a short timeframe are crucial for sustainable leadership.

    A leadership trait that is missing in the profile of an effective leader is visionary skill. "If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't matter which way you go" (Alice in Wonderland). A leader should convince followers to do the right things.
    • David Keendjele
    • Acting CEO, Social Security Commission, Namibia
    It is a balancing act in terms of team/leader capability. When the team is weak or relatively new, focus shifts to the leader to steer its direction and assist team members in playing the game well. In this instance, Executive Intelligence becomes critical to the success of the organization.

    The slogan or view that "good leaders surround themselves with good people" can help less intelligent leaders succeed, yet there must be a minimum level of Executive intelligence for this become a reality. In the final analysis, however, business success should determine the price tag of the executive, and not merely the MBA grades achieved at a business school.
    • Rohit Gothi
    • Head, New Business, Marico Limited, India
    If executive intelligence is defined as Einsteinian intelligence, then it's a no brainer that you need more than that to succeed. However, Justin Menkes sets it clear that intelligence is largely drawn from others too.
    • Stephen Burkett
    Having read all of the preceding comments, I find that the core of the issue remains the definition of executive intelligence.

    What is executive instinct if not the ability to recognize opportunity and create strategies? I feel that common sense and instinct are at least components of, if not synonyms for, executive intelligence. According to Spencer Stuart's Web site, "Executive Intelligence Evaluation (ExI?) is a proprietary assessment methodology which is used in selected assignments to evaluate the judgment skills of executives. It sets a new standard of accuracy, objectivity and predictive validity in executive assessment."

    It would seem that executive intelligence is less about number-crunching power or one's grasp of advanced concepts, and more about evaluating situations and taking appropriate action. This is the core of the management discipline. If Spencer Stuart and esteemed associate Justin Menkes have truly come up with a means to measure and teach this precious gift, I fear professors throughout the world may soon be out of work.
    • Anonymous
    Could great leadership be the result of a great team? That is the source of greatness, projected bottom up rather than top down. Could it be that what you are observing in great leaders is just what any "capable executive" does in the right spot at the right time? It could be a possibility that those pushing "executive intelligence" are measuring the highly visible but least important part of a complex teaming arrangement.
    • Karen Dempster
    • Director, Karen Dempster & Associates Creating Change
    Leaders impart ideas via inspirational but succinct communication, without manipulation. A true sense of personal power engenders sharing and genuine delight in the success of others. "Team" for leaders is a broad term. Great leaders are basically psychologically invincible, because they focus on what must occur, bitter or sweet, without fear.
    • John Pullen
    • VP, Strategic Development, Luck Stone Corporation
    The most effective executives have a unique balance of good leadership skills (adaptable personality and style) and the ability to think about issues from a systems-oriented, conceptual perspective. Executives have to make sense out of a tremendous volume of complexity, simplify this complexity, make good decisions that are simultaneously long and short term in nature, and then influence their associates in a direction that supports the goals of the organization. The "executive intelligence" is needed for the first part and the leadership skill is required for the second part. It's not one or the other.
    • Anonymous
    I agree with the concept of executive intelligence and that it should play a bigger role in determining leaders at all levels within an organization. Unfortunately, those that are the best smooth talkers and yes-men inevitably get promoted to lead. This often creates problems because the leader's ego tends to be way too big for the organization to handle, and often results in better qualified individuals leaving to find work elsewhere. I strong believe in the old adage that "Leaders are born, not made." In my experience there are natural leaders that I'd follow willingly, and those that don't seem to understand what a leader is. A leader is someone that is willing to lead by example and not lead "because I said so."
    • Anonymous
    In reading this article and comments, and assessing my own experience, I have seen that personality success is best perceived in the right corporate culture (risktaker in emerging or recovering markets, and so on) while executive intelligence is best perceived in the right climate (disruptive market forces, etc). This is why we continue to see C-level roles as cultural drivers in areas of diverse thinking and in corporate diversity, and why most Fortune 500 companies lack diversity in both people and thinking at these C-levels.

    Everyone remembers the EI of Gates and Jobs. However, not really discussed are the execs at IBM and Xerox that lacked the EI (and cultural and climate diversity), and who gave away the genius and talent of their people, and therefore of their corporations, to the very people we now use as examples.

    I expect the hard times coming for many of the EI-driven organizations is when the organization grows too large to be impacted by, or accepting of, executive intelligence (and diversity).
    • Gaurav Goel
    • Project Manager, Infosys Technologies
    Style and personality can be very effective in getting the attention of your organization, media, and customers in a short duration of time. Utilization of this attention to create and implement a winning strategy requires a great deal of executive intelligence.

    I think business schools and organizations must train future leaders in tools and techniques to gather information from a wide range of sources. Identification of relevant data and effective analysis of immense amounts of information will be the key to crafting and executing strategies in the coming decades.
    • A.S. Vasudevan
    • President, Wisdom Consulting Inc, Bangalore, India
    ExI in the Indian context is about bringing purpose and meaning to people as they engage themselves with the organisation's goals and mission. Designing work as a space-time continuum that can excite people at work to do their best will be the challenge for leaders of Indian organisations competing globally with the best in the world. This is the intelligence that will retain talent.

    ExI, according to my observation of great leaders like Mr. Subbaiah of the Murugappa group and Mr. Narayanamurthy of Infosys, is the urge to question their own experience and foregone conclusions, and reflect upon the insights that govern their style the very next moment. This deep awareness to one's own responsibility and commitment to the future of people and market forces can be taken as an indicator of the presence of an intelligent factor in executive capability.
    • Venkatraman
    • General Manager, banking company
    Executive intelligence is important to the companies as the intelligentia strategize for the company's growth path. The actions of an intelligent executive command credibility. He can lead for better governance and hence for value to the shareholders. As is seen in the IT industry, capital is intelligence more than monetary.
    • David E. C. Huggins
    • President, Andros Consultants Limited
    There is much merit in every opinion expressed here. It appears, though, that we're discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The primary consideration is surely that intelligence (be it cognitive or emotional), personality, and style are all important, and invariably in different ways, depending on the situation.

    One analogy would be that of an automobile. It has an engine (intelligence), a transmission (relationships), and a traction system: the wheels (practical processes). Are not all three elements necessary for the vehicle to achieve its purpose? Different combinations realize different capabilities and thereby different performance--all required as conditions change.

    I would argue that we should invest our considerations in personal strengths such as resiliency, integrity, and adaptability, given that specific threshhold levels of intelligence, personality, and style are met. These surely are the factors that make a real difference beyond knowledge, skill, and experience.
    • Anonymous
    I tend to agree with one of the previous comments that "Leaders are born, not made." There are intelligent people that have been schooled in the tactics of leadership, almost as an art, yet they lack the very essence of a true leader. Common sense, personality, emotional intelligence, and intellect, as well as the insight to manage to all levels effectively, are what make a true leader.

    So the next time you are in a position to recruit, analyze, or mentor a potential leader, ask yourself whether you would follow that person into battle and why, not what they scored on their latest Executive Assessment.
    • Terry Rodgers
    • CEO, HighStreet Corporate Rentals
    The problem is that we are not generally well-equipped to evaluate and identify the difference between executive intelligence and personal style. Our assumptions about the latter lead us to make conclusions, which we are prepared to defend, about the former. Spotting the fraudsters in our midst and discerning the difference between leadership traits/intelligence from the personality traits of intelligent, leader-oriented saboteurs is an issue, especially for today's change-driven, chaotically-distracted, growth-oriented company.

    I recommend reading "Snakes in Suits" by Hare and Babiak for more insight into this issue. Be aware that the qualities of entrepreneurial leadership and psychopathy are sometimes not far apart. As responsible leaders, it is our job to protect our organizations against these predators and to continue to be aware that the faculty for clear intelligence is often absent from those who are so able to snow us with their interactive personal abilities even while they are busy confusing us with their apparent sincerity. We must learn to identify these players and take them out of the game before they do the harm they are so capable of inflicting.
    • Abhishek Raj
    • Senior Executive
    Executives strike a balance between routine work, incremental improvization, and transformational change. Unlike executives, leaders devote 80% of their time to improvization and transformational change. Hence executive intelligence is no more than 35% relevant for an effective and consistent leader.
    Charisma is a result of both personality and intelligence. People believe in the work of an effective executive, but a leader must inspire faith in his/her vision.
    • Meregini Joy
    • Relationship Manager, Unity Bank PLC
    One of the greatest geniuses, Albert Einstein, once said, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
    • Milind Halapeth
    • Manager
    Intelligence is not enough. To be successful, a leader must have the right personality and exhibit situational leadership that calls for different leadership styles in different situations. A leader's style must work well with all the stakeholders in the company chain.

    Executive Intelligence is a critical ingredient of leadership. Intelligent leaders have industry foresight, an ability to "imagine" the future. Often, they steer the industry and shape it to their advantage. They ensure that their organization has competencies and capabilities required to fulfill the industry demands. We have seen how the leaders at Netscape, Amazon, and e-Bay imagined the future and transformed their industries. The leaders of these companies are known for their intelligence and industry foresight more than anything else.
    • Tim Donovan
    • Principal, Executive Legal Solutions
    No mention of creativity and the ability to synthesize facts and figures to come up that vision, that goal to drive toward, in any of these posts? Does creative ability factor into good leadership?

    I also would ask, "Does the definition of 'good leadership' depend on the context of the organization?" General Patton may have been a great leader in war. How would he fare with a hall full of shareholders? Employees?

    Last, what is the measure of success? We have all seen recent fiascos where a leader's success in the game was measured by the quarterly profit ruler. That particular game seemed to reward short-term results at the expense of long-term welfare. It also resulted in the rise of powerful but unethical leaders who destroyed a great deal.
    • Ashutosh Tiwari
    • Business Development Officer, IFC-SEDF, Dhaka, Bangladesh
    "Executive intelligence" strikes me as being intelligent about getting things done.

    Sometimes one person can get a thing done and that's fine.
    But for complex projects to get done within a certain time frame and under a certain budget, more people bringing in different issues/viewpoints/agenda need to get involved as members of a team.

    An executive (= leader) in charge of such a team faces a fair amount of uncertainties related to market conditions, personalities of team members, issue-based competencies, risk-taking abilities, dreaming about success, and abilities to exploit hard data and intuitions, with regard to what a path to acceptable success might look like.

    Processing what is known and what is yet unknown and putting that information to work for results requires a high degree of cognitive ability that combines both confidence and humility. A tall order, to be sure; but with enough feedback and dedicated practice, such a trait can be cultivated.
    • Ulysses U. Pardey, MBA
    • Managing Director, Am-Tech, S.A., Panama, R of P
    Being a useful leader requires that there is proven evidence for those who have to follow you that indeed they can trust you as a person and manager, especially when it is not clear where the business should go. A useful leader is capable of coping with people, things, and time. The leader shares the success and backs people up in order to solve problems at any time. The leader is someone the employees can count on for better performance and profit growth for all.
    • Robin Chacko
    • Advisory Services
    The idea that corporate leaders contribute 10% (or less) to a company's success (or failure) irks me to no end. To me, the quality of the company's C-class executives is the single most important factor in a company's success or failure.

    I pity those amongst us who have forgotten a very important lesson ... it doesn't matter if you're an incompetent high school dropout or an incompetent Harvard MBA grad.

    Allow me to sum this up...

    Lesson 1 - Nothing can ever relieve the clear "Seller's market" in leadership talent.

    Lesson 2 - A cautious buyer will forever be thankful for that.
    • John Coxon
    • Executive Coach
    As someone that works with managers at all levels I have to say that my experiences are such that the majority of managers do not display a great deal of executive intelligence. That is not to suggest they are stupid; you do not reach the highest levels of executive management by being stupid. However, it would be advisable not to expect executive intelligence from someone simply because they are in a management role.

    Executives on their own do not make organisations successful. Success is an outcome created by a group of people walking down the same track, intent on reaching the same destination and helping each other along the way. Effective executives, however, are pivotal in helping to form and nurture the relationships that form amongst this group and which are essential to achieve a desired outcome.

    I have observed many executives head up successful organisations, yet when you talk with them there is little evidence of any special executive intelligence. Instead what is observable is the result of collective intelligence -- which the executive team has been successful in tapping into and making use of for the common good.

    Individual executive intelligence accounts for little. Collective executive intelligence counts for a small amount, and collective group intelligence from within the entire organisation counts for a lot.
    • Paul Power
    • Director, Hay Group Pacific
    As with many writers on what constitutes effective leadership performance, this author has considered the concept of "executive leadership" in isolation from studies of other factors that affect success in leadership roles. The critical question is one of balance: the extent to which this type of thinking and problem solving also takes account of the other considerations on which its outcomes will impinge.

    The most successful leaders are those who seem to be able to combine intellect with executive maturity, or emotional intelligence, to enable them to make the right decisions for the right contexts. An article in the June 2006 HBR by Scott Spreier, Mary Fontaine and Ruth Malloy ("Leadership Run Amok: The Destructive Potential of Overachievers") makes this point very well.
    • Jeremy Fain
    • MSc student, HEC Paris
    Jim Collins is probably right: The best "change agents" combine humility and drive for success. I'd like to mention as well team-building capabilities (a great manager is nothing without the adequate, "Yes-men"-free team) and the ability to learn from one's mistakes - a quality that's derived from both humility and drive for success.

    Let me put it this way: Oscar Wilde once said that experience is the name one gives to one's mistakes. I'm a strong believer that a good manager NEEDS to make mistakes in order to get better and become a great leader. What differs between a laid-off manager and a great leader, both at a time good managers, is their ability to learn from their mistakes.
    • John Ulm
    • Senior Project Manager, AT&T
    I believe both executive intelligence and highly developed leadership attributes are not interchangeable. They are seperate skill sets that are invoked at differing times and in differing situations. Executive intelligence is required to determine a successful organizational vision. Leadership is required to ensure successful vision implementation.
    • R. Daniel
    • VP Sales, BPI
    It depends a lot on where the leaders are in the organization. Executive intelligence is for people making executive decisions. My leadership relies on making my workers work hard for me every day and have fun. My executive leadership is subtle, and insights are often contributed to the CEO.

    It depends on who the leader/worker is and if they are empowered to produce executive intelligence. Everyone should know their role in the business and everyone should try at times to lead.
    • William Murray
    • Leadership Development Consultant,
    Justin Menkes says that the most important factor for executive success is "clear thinking, the ability to digest, often with the help of others, large amounts of information in order to form important decisions."

    When I was at Harvard Business School (MBA 1974) I repeatedly heard professors declare that interpersonal skills are what take people to the top. I still believe this is true. In the case of decision making, often an executive is dependent on what others tell him or her. How forthright will they be? If the information they give you is tainted by fear of expressing differences, how good can your decision be?

    The key executive skill is to encourage people to be forthright by making it safe for them to be outspoken, even rewarding those who courageously express different views. Then the executive is blessed with good information for making the decisions.
    • Roger Ares
    • Director, Strategic Planning, Benchmark Brands, Inc
    Executive intelligence is a type of core competency that enables companies to attain sustainable and profitable business growth. There's so much charismatic leadership can do for your corporation....

    Leaders without executive intelligence may be able to engage associates to do the right things the wrong way, or the wrong things the right way; but never the right things the right way.
    • Henry Kwok
    • Consultant, STIC
    If i may, i would like to put these various comments in the perspective of what we advocate in our centre. The primary roles of the leaders (CEO and his reports alike) are to plan for the future and to effect necessary changes within the organisation to achieve that plan. If we view ExI and attributes of the leaders in the light of their primary roles, then it would be impossible to say which is more important. They are all important ingredients to making an organisation at different stages of the plan implementation ... hopefully with excellence.

    The finding that no more than 10 percent of the success in an organisation can be attributed to its CEO is interesting. I do not know how his contribution is measured but we must not forget that his influence down the line could be exponential. He impacts on 10 persons, and these ten impact on another 10 or even less, and in this way the whole organisation would feel the impact of his guidance.
    • Adrian
    • Recruitment Coordinator, Sydney, Australia
    There has to be a new focus on the importance of "executive intelligence" in leadership. The role of emotional intelligence is now clearly understood and accepted following Daniel Goleman's pathbreaking work in the field. It is quite clear that leaders who possess such intelligence traits are a valuable asset to promote innovation and motivate their workforce to achieve corporate and strategic goals. Leaders who lack executive intelligence are more likely to have difficulty making informed decisions in an ever-changing, complex business environment.
    • Anonymous
    Highly motivated and successful leader effectiveness is just as important as executive intelligence. Intelligence may bring new scope and long-term sustainability. Effectiveness may change fast due to circumstances that affect the leader and the health of the business.
    • Philbert Suresh
    • Senior Strategic Consultant, TransLogistique
    Tha paradox of Executive Intelligence in the workplace is that those in such a position do project EI as defined in different cultures. There is no one standard about how things are done in different workplaces. It is the accretion of knowledge and experience in a variety of work environments that adds a real zip to EI.
    • S. Narayan
    • Managing Director & CEO, Integron Management Services Pvt. Ltd
    I would expand the definition of executive intelligence a little bit. Besides the ability to distill an essence from a large amount of data, it is also about the ability to foresee emerging scenarios and be prepared for them. I would also venture to suggest that it may also include the ability to change the rules of the game, if required. Whether this comes out of experience or instinct, whether this can be inculcated through training or whether it is inherent to an individual, is the key. I suspect it is a bit of both. If one has the instinct, he can be trained.
    • Ani Dave
    • Editor, Pulsar KC
    Executive Intelligence is all about aligning strengths in the right direction to bring people together and create synergies that drive positive transformations. These transformations encompass not only the professional world but also the personal sphere, thereby enhancing style, approach, and focus.

    Transformations that lead to growth are a result of a constructive coordination of the levels of intellect based on a consistent and even pattern of growth. Executive Intelligence is all about extending capabilities to become a "catalyst of growth" and to "grow as a whole."
    • S. S. Rajeshwari
    A leader needs to be one who understands his/her team members to the fullest extent. Leaders are supposed to know the strengths and weaknesses of their team memebers and must have the ability to transform weakness to positive vibrations which can contribute to organisational goals.

    His/her responsibility is to make team members grow along with the organisation. For this, executive intelligence may contribute to the extent of 50 to 60 percent. Something more, which may be called an instinct or experience, is necessary. The instinct can be felt from the results the team generates and the positive vibrations spread across the organisation, as well as the feeling of belonging and satisfaction experienced by the team members under this leadership.
    • Anonymous
    My concern is that the next generation of employees may demand a more sociable form of leader (as well as a brilliant and successful one): someone who will make them feel secure in an insecure work environment.
    • Mark Outhwaite
    • Director, Outhentics Consulting
    As an ex-CEO and former Army Officer, I have had the privilege to work with a range of outstanding leaders and some less than outstanding ones.

    Today I work with organisations finding their way through stormy waters. The research into Executive Intelligence rings some loud bells for me. The ability to make sense of a complex pattern of internal and external information and to translate that into sustainable organisational realignment is critical. An analogy I often use is the successful helicopter pilot who needs outstanding situational awareness: What distinguishes the best from the merely good is the ability not just to know their position from instruments, looking outside, and maps, but to be able to visualise their position as if standing away from their aircraft -- to be able to understand their position in the normal physical dimensions as well as that of time and the dimensions of numerous alternatives.

    The truly outstanding are able to communicate that simply and effectively in such a way that others are able to see and understand the same picture and turn it into action. And of course the picture needs to be constantly updated and re-evaluated as the context changes. Too many of the failing organisations I work with have lost even the ability to look outside the cockpit: Their instruments are telling them only what they want to know as they fly into the side of the mountain in front of them.

    Other attributes are of course important, such as personal style, values, and commitment; but executive intelligence is an ingredient that, in an increasingly complex and fluid world, is essential.
    • Ashok Lalla
    • Director of Internet Marketing, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
    Some very interesting ideas and insights here.

    My take is that real leadership is about getting your people ahead, making them see progress as they get ahead, and giving them a sense that it is their "doing" that is creating the progress.

    Quite like the sherpa who accompanies climbers on Everest, a leader should be there when needed, but otherwise let the climber cut his own path to the top. This way, as the company gets ahead, it will also have so many more "summiteers."
    • Ted Ruddock
    • Chief Learning Officer, MBIA
    Haven't we all seen brilliant executives either fail miserably or simply fail to achieve their potential? Why? It's generally because they have low emotional intelligence. They lack a fundamental understanding of themselves or their impact on others, thus making it extremely difficult (for some, impossible) to fully engage others in truly collaborative efforts that leverage everyone's capabilities. With the change and complexity we are facing, if we expect an executive to have the "intelligence" to figure out "what's next," failure is almost assured.

    Collins demonstrated pretty clearly that successful executives have the humilty to know that they don't know it all and need the right people in the right places around them to listen to and collaborate with, coupled with the will to succeed. That's what leads to results over time. The leaders he profiled were all very intelligent, but that wasn't the differentiator. It was the hard stuff of the "soft side" of leadership, coupled with a bit of luck, that made them -- and their companies -- great.
    • S. Moghal
    Executive intelligence is what one can provide for the success of the business. CEOs may spend time on small issues where they can prove their own position. Over the years we have come to see that major organisations have not performed because the CEOs were more interested in stakeholders than in the success of the organisation.
    • Theo Linda Dawson, Ph.D.
    • President and CEO, Developmental Testing Service, LLC
    For the last four years, we have been working with a Federal agency to understand, describe, and measure components of cognitive competence in leadership/management from a developmental point of view.

    There is no doubt that cognitive competence predicts leadership success. What we need to understand is which competencies are most important ("mapping" the leadership domain), how these competencies develop within individuals (describing the development of a range of competencies), what kind of environments/classrooms support the development of these competencies (evaluating research-based developmental curricula), and how to integrate evaluations, assessments, and learning interventions so that real progress is made.

    Having said this, we fully acknowledge that there is no one-to-one correspondence between cognitive competence and leadership success. Leader behavior is predicted by a number of attribues/competencies/qualities that work together in complex ways. What we need is a systematic research approach to identifying these and examining how they work together in real-world leadership contexts.
    • Emmanuel Acuc
    • IT Analyst, Africa
    I believe a mix of executive intelligence and personality is crucial, esepecially in a place like Africa. My boss is a Wharton-trained MBA who has been able to motivate and inspire a team of specialists in a very complex environment. One needs to apply these skills in the right sequence depending on the circumstances.
    • Nugraha
    • PDCA - Strategic Initiatives Authority, Bosowa Group, Jakarta
    In Indonesia, which is dominated by the natural resources business, decision makers need to make recomendations based on the environmental impact and the safety of society. This is the reason why emotional intelligence must be shared as part of the decision-making system.
    • Anonymous
    I have been fascinated reading all of the comments on executive leadership. I have never commented on articles before, but I saw something that really got my juices flowing. Leadership is something that many people try to complicate; yet it is the easiest thing in the world to judge.

    There are three types of leaders: 1) goal oriented; 2) people oriented; and 3) true leaders who realize that they must have quality people to attain any goal or height for his/her company. I also believe a leader must have a vision and the creativity, intelligence, and will power to stick to that vision. I have seen many CEOs who are intelligent, but few that start with a vision and utilize their intelligence to get the job done. Thankfully, I work for one that does, and he is a real joy. He makes coming to work fun, not a chore. True leadership: rare.
    • Margie Parikh
    • Lecturer, B K School of Business Management
    I think we need to clarify our assumptions, Professor Heskett. Leadership content does not have a universal formulation. The scarcity of a skill-set is not an exclusive cause of the "sellers' market."

    Situational and contingency theories of leadership have always stressed that no one style works. Success is a function of the leader's style, personality, and executive intelligence as well as the kind of context in which he/she operates and is coming from.

    If you examine the Indian scene, there are many first-generation entrepreneurs, but few startups scale up and grow beyond the family business. That is a true challenge to one's leadership skills. Since Indian society is hierarchical, I see so many students who are deeply affected by their social backgrounds and who do not make visible attempts to demonstrate leadership.

    In my opinion, therefore, their personality has to be molded into a more assertive state. The same is true for executive education programs where participants come from largely bureaucratic organizations or organizations that are run by the personal command of the owner(s).

    As our entire society evolves, leadership styles must be evolutionary, adapting to the environment and differentiating. A style that will click in the highly global IT industry will fail in the large semi-government sector.
    • Dan Hoch
    • Principal, Rocky View School Division
    What a leader needs to be effective is somewhat akin to a warrior going into battle: What is in my arsenal and what will I use in this particular encounter? Some situations will even require more of one weapon (skill) than another. As a result, a leader will need to ensure all tools are sharp and at the ready, and these tools include intelligence (emotional, executive, situational, social, industry-specific) in all of its many and varied forms.
    • John Wilson
    • Group Commander, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue
    One strand of the debate appears to be missing: Do we adequately differentiate between people who have a (reasonably) altruistic desire to lead and those who -- for very un-altruistic reasons -- simply want to win?

    Put another way, some people aspire to lead because they genuinely believe things can be done better and they have something to contribute to that process. Others use leadership to meet deep emotional needs to be seen to win or be the focus of attention. The latter type will often "chew you up and spit you out" without a moment's hesitation.

    Executive intelligence is but one essential trait of a good leader, but motivation has the capacity to underpin -- or undermine -- performance, regardless of Executive Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, or anything else.
    • Vidya A.
    • Consultant, ESP Consultant, Mumbai
    As a consultant for a people-driven organisation, I am quite satified with Jim Heskett's definition of Executive Intelligence. Being in diverse culture and a developing nation where MNCs are establishing themselves, there is a huge amount of influence created by the proprietor who not only challenges an individual's intellectual ability but also challenges his ability to survive the work pressure.

    Though MNCs are changing the outlook of working styles by introducing reforms, incentives, and so on, it will take some time to have a complete process-driven organisation.

    Lastly I would like comment that great leaders like Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Azim Premji, etc. would be creating everlasting effects on each one of us not because of their persistence and focused work but because of their "Executive Intelligence."
    • Marwan D. Abdo
    • Business Development Manager, Al Jaber Group
    Harmony: a term that continues to capture the minds of successful CEOs and people who are appointed to seek it. Challenges faced by business cultures during the past decade revolve closer today around the leadership aspects of the human element. Nonetheless, that unique formula business leaders tailor for their teams necessitates an ample amount of intelligence. The distinction between innovative leaders who bring about change and those who are able to stimulate the final outcome with that change is gradually becoming clearer. This is precisely where executive intelligence defines its role.

    I believe that, due to human nature, an organization is necessarily bound to sacrifice much when both attributes, intelligence and tone-setting abilities, are seen as identical in purpose.
    • Sallie
    It has been my experience in business that there are two distinct types of people in control, with vastly different personalities: the leader and the manager.

    The manager's thrust is analysis and control. Minutia is their middle name. These are the people who keep things going on a day to day basis.

    A leader has "street smarts." This person can quickly analyze what the manager brings to the picture and at the same time keep abreast of all that is new in the world with all its opportunities: someone who can bring a vision, not merely manage one; someone at once analytical and creative.

    This is the person you don't want to put constraints upon. Input is critical. Their time must be spent in one-on-one floor discussions with workers at all levels from operations to those who deal with customers, reading a dozen magazines and newspapers of every kind, computer surfing for information, and being around other creative people. You may even think daydreaming. Leaders are idea people, visionary even.

    They are also good decision-makers. They know danger and risk, including the difference between the two. They are mentally quick and skilled at setting a course for others to follow. They can sketch the basis of a project and pass it down in order to take advantage of others' skills and added creativity. They are experienced enough to be able to identify pitfalls ahead of time (or get advice if necessary) and are particular in making sure such things are expertly mitigated to avoid unnecessary entanglements and time.

    They are also action people. Quick forward motion, considered risk, and broad expansive thinking are trademarks of the leader a.k.a. entrepreneur/leader.

    Finally, personality. This must be a person who can inspire. Someone you can have confidence in. You must know them, or at least feel like you do. You have an inkling of how they think and operate, and you know they are keeping your best interests at heart, or at least you suspect they have similar values as you do.

    These are all the elements of a leader. Leaders could be a friendly (that helps), completely charismatic, or stern depending upon the scope of the organization. What they shouldn't be is insincere, out solely for themselves, or full of hot air.

    Can these things be taught? I'm optimisitc. A broader net should be used in finding them, in my opinion. And a leader must be brave. Can that be taught? I doubt it.
    • Lawrence Nwaru
    • Quality/Special Projects Manager, United Parcel Service Nigeria
    I do not believe Executive intelligence really counts so much in running effective organisations. Emotional stability, yes. Leaders play a role in decision making by involving various experts in the thinking process, and solving business problems. Intelligence needed to drive business success is not strictly in the domain of the chief executive alone. Synergising ideas and problems and developing them in teams have always achieved the desired goals for firms.

    It is the ability of executives to apply a mix of their natural intelligence with their emotional intelligence that promotes success in organisations. This is why organisations look for various experts from different fields of knowledge to create functional leadership. Experience has shown that only executives with great emotional balance have been able to drive the best from these sets of experts.

    Remember, getting the best from people you work with is not measured by the level of intelligence one has but by the ability to manage the emotional challenges. The amount of team support the executive gets will be dependent upon his ability to lead people, which essentially comes from emotional maturity. Emotional intelligence is not taught at school, but can be developed over time through conscious commitment to change.
    • Prad
    "I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature." -- J. D. Rockefeller
    • Beryl Deskin
    • Sr. Consultant, Deskin Leadership Communications
    After decades of working with very intelligent executives, I have seen firsthand that people choose to follow only those with clear vision, compassionate power, and effective communications skills. There may be a burst of enthusiasm for charismatic people in a leadership position. But soon others start making excuses for them, covering for their mistakes, and second-guessing their judgment. There may be commitment for that banal individual who has the unique intelligence to see big pictures and manage details, but soon followers are bored. Certain Enron executives seemed to be able to fool a lot of people for a lot of years with their executive intelligence! In the end the only people who thought it made a difference in their performance was the jury.
    • Surendranath
    • Director, Sumeru Human Asset Consultants
    I believe that executive intelligence, coupled with personality and style of functioning, enhance the ability to make things happen (execution). So executive intelligence is an important aspect of leadership. Mere executive intelligence will not help a leader to achieve results. Leaders have to get results.
    • John Lagace
    • Director, Commonwealth E&C
    Personality ~and~ ability are inseparable and constitute a unique leadership characteristic. We do not hear of the charismatics who fail from lack of ability, and a rotten personality prevents superb ability from getting anywhere. (Tyrants are not included in this analysis.)
    • Barbara Kennedy, SPHR
    • President and Executive Coach, Coaching Strategies
    I have benefited from reading the comments about Executive Leadership and noticed a pattern. Given everyone's diverse opinions, backgrounds, industries, and positions, there is not a single conclusive definition of what makes "Executive Leadership."

    It is a highly subjective and debatable topic, based on one's own area of expertise. While there are commonalities or competencies, both intrinsic and extrinsic as to what may be seen as successful in one's view of leadership, it appears that it is agreeably situational. What an organization values is expressed in its culture.

    In the column Jim Heskett asked, "As we select and train future leaders for all levels of our organizations, how much effort do we really spend assessing executive intelligence as opposed to personality and style?"

    Today I believe the answer to this question is that we spend very little to no effort. If "executive intelligence" is evaluated, it is based on personality, style, and who you know. It is subjective. In my opinion, Daniel Goleman's work in Emotional Intelligence is the foundation of Executive Leadership (see Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1998).

    An independent study shows that CEOs score lowest on the emotional quotient (EQ) aspects of these assessments. The emotional quotient (EQ) accounts for 80 percent of job performance and predicts success over any other skill, including IQ and technical expertise.

    Having said this, I think the importance of executive intelligence, style, and personality is crucial for future executive leadership to progress and enhance our organizations in our competitive global world.
    • Anonymous
    Intelligence is about knowledge. Knowledge is like something that can only be demonstrated. A good teacher, a measure of mentorship, is a prerequisite for potential leadership. A classic reference can be found on Plato's Meno: a dialogue on Virtue between Socrates and Meno.
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • Vice President, RVI
    Successful leaders, in my mind, have two characteristics: a point of view and a focus. A point of view is different from mere intelligence. A point of view is a distillation of intelligence into a conclusion about how business works. Without a comprehensive point of view, every decision is almost like starting from scratch. No one is intelligent enough to think through every decision independently. By having a point of view, you have a reference point that allows you to more efficiently move a company though all of the "tyrrany of the immediate" and be effective in moving the company foreward.

    The second element is "focus." There was a great book written a few decades back that analized great leaders. It found that great leaders focus on only a small part of the business and then use the small focus as a sort of rudder to move the entire ship. For example, some great leaders focus on hiring the right people and then get out of the way to let the right people do the right thing. Others focus on how capital is spent. Once they move the capital to the right locations they let the capital do its work. Some focus on the strategy and making sure everyone knows what it is. Then they get out of the way and let people execute it. Still others focus on getting the processes and procedures right and then get out of the way and let the processes produce what they are designed to produce. Depending on one's point of view, one might pick a different focus.

    In many ways it doesn't matter which focus one takes. In the end, the combination of point of view and focus keeps a leader from being overwhelmed with too much decision making so that fewer, better decisions can be made. True intelligence often means knowing what not to waste your time on, rather than being the most book-smart.
    • Michael Fry
    Leadership is about influencing. Everyone has the ability to lead whether it be upwards, downwards, or sideways. Look at your own family; we get influenced or led in things every day. Even the most junior clerk has the ability to influence the CEO in some way. Through experience and maturity these skills become even more evident and acknowledged. Some unique people can harness these traits and become exceptional leaders. A leader needs to have intellect, vision, and certainly street smarts or common sense, but more importantly a leader also needs emotional intelligence and an understanding of his people. People (or his family) won't care how much he knows until they know how much he cares.
    • Jermina Menon
    • Marketing Consultant
    Executive intelligence no doubt should be the most important trait of any head of an organization. However, without a couple of other traits it may not mean much. A true leader needs to do a lot more than just know his job well. It's about being able to guide good people to deliver their best ... about giving employees a work atmosphere which makes them want to strive harder and together achieve corporate goals. In that context executive intelligence is not just about how well to run the show but also about how well the show runs once it is put into motion.
    • Marina Muscan
    • Program Expert, Rosal Group
    "Executive Intelligence" is related with a manager's capacity to process vital information for his company and to coordinate the people from his/her department so they can to gather useful information and to give it to him/her. For a manager to be competitive, it is vital that he/she is able to analyze the market characteristics; therefore he/she must be well informed. Since one leader cannot precess all the information that is circulated by the media in due time, it is vital to have specialized people who can gather information for him/her.

    Executive intelligence defines an entire process of gathering, filtering, and processing information. At the first level are employees who gather all the raw information from the market, then filter it and present this filtered information to the manager. The manager sees the final report and can clearly judge the entire situation without being overwhelmed by the amount of information that is available today.

    It is true that every manager processes information according to his own style of leadership, but it is vital to have the basic information on which to make a good decision. So executive intelligence is related to the capacity to process information.

    Executive intelligence is very important for a manager in today's society because without it he will not be able to make the neceasary decisions that could mean the survival of the business. If a manager is not well-informed he could make a bad choice regarding the competition and clients, and could be "thrown out of the market" by others who understand better the needs and threats of an open market.
    • Tinus
    In my experience, leadership cannot be evaluated against executive intelligence (as defined by Menkes) alone. Character also plays a very important role. Integrity -- keeping one's promises, being true to oneself, etc. -- has a key impact on the leader's relationship with others and affects the leader's ability to inspire others. A conscious leader who wants to lead should do a much better job than a very intelligent "leader" who manipulates others for his/her own gain.

    That said, I understand that executive intelligence, intuition or instinct, emotional intelligence and IQ obviously also play an important role in leadership.
    • Vatsal Vaishnav
    • Nirma
    Intelligence is not a direct tool for assessing one's success as leader. Leadership requires much more than simply being intelligent. To make things happen, leadership requires a practical approach, on-your-feet thinking, a proactive mindset, taking people along, and soft skills.
    • Akhil Aggarwal
    • Senior Application Programmer & Business Analyst, IBM Corp.
    I am not absolutely certain that companies ignore someone's "Executive Intelligence" when they select a few of their most important executives, if Executive Intelligence is to be defined as the right balance of common sense and the ability to make crucial decisions and carry out actions. Are these not the basic and perhaps the only crucial requirements one looks for besides the obvious decent degree of confidence and style?

    I thought this was what the B-schools taught their students by providing them with limited information for analysis and subsequent decision making throughout the one or two-year programs.

    I am a young programmer aspiring to join a good B-school in the next two years, and I'm already researching and working on how to strengthen these traits of my personality, which at the end of the day will be termed my Executive Intelligence. However, knowing that it's overridden by sheer style and apparent personality (which perhaps any fashion model would have abundance of) could be quite a deterrent to one's drive.
    • Dick Meza
    • Adjunct Faculty, Chapman University College
    I think there are degrees of executive intelligence needed depending on the level of job/leadership complexity. It's situational leadership all over again. Besides the required level of executive mental ability, other dimensions may need to be baked in with it, such as Salovey and Mayer's ability model of emotional intelligence or Sternberg's tri-archic model of analytical, common sense, and creative intelligence. Gardner's model of multiple intelligences certainly needs to be considered in the quest for answers to what constitutes leadership effectiveness. The ultimate question is, I think,
    how do we make leadership research more relevant for the "on the streets practitioner?"
    • Richard B. Mann, PhD
    • Adjunct Professor, Pepperdine University
    I used to believe that leaders were born, not made. Research and experience have convinced me that everyone has leadership potential, and that by critical introspection and knowing one's self, a person can develop his/her leadership ability. It is what Covey calls "Discover your voice" (2006, p. 39). Collins calls it the "Who" (2001, p. 41). Jack Welch (2005) referred to the key trait of a leader as authenticity.

    We can list IQ (intelligence quotient) as a guide to academic learning, EI (emotional intelligence) as a guide to using emotions in an intelligent way, ExI (executive intelligence) as a guide to informed leadership, DmI (decision-making intelligence) as a guide to problem solving and strategic thinking, and SI (strategic ideation, or strategic intelligence) as a guide to determining the "What" that follows the "Who" as set forth by Collins. I have also been thinking about calling it Strategic Wisdom (SW) because the word "intelligence" seems to be the latest fad in buzzwords.

    Other useful skills come from being in the "trenches" at all levels, learning "street smarts" from experience. Several years as a sales person are the best ways to learn about people, their needs and wants. Having been a salesman and a sales manager I've learned that the most important skill for sales is listening. Learning a canned pitch is the most counterproductive skill for selling. Of course, one must know the product or service inside and out, so when there is a match between the needs and desires of the prospect and the benefits of the product or service, putting the two together becomes automatic.
    • Susan Nedza, MD
    • Chief Medical Officer, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Mr. Menkes posits something that I learned in my career as an emergency department physician. In times of chaos and uncertainty, the good leaders were those who had "the ability to digest, often with the help of others, large amounts of information in order to form important decisions that produce useful action with the right amount of deliberation." Now as a physician leader in healthcare delivery, facing complexity with often limited information, that skill has become even more essential. The ability to transform information into knowledge and then to integrate it with experience into action separates the leaders from the managers.
    • H. Arrillaga
    • Marketing Manager, HP
    We tend to think about leaders as if they were an isolated entity. We analyze the leader character, intelligence, intuition, etc., but in reality leaders are part of a reaction to the environment.

    There is evidence that different leaders with a reasonable amount of intelligence will take similar if not identical decisions. Processing huge amounts of information or using intuition in an effective manner are not interesting factors because leaders usually have access to teams who digest this information for them.

    We need to look at what leaders really do different. That is incredibly similar to what defines success for the rest of us in our organizations: social skills.

    Great leaders have a unique way of making people feel encouraged, excited, and committed in a continuous manner. They also isolate people from external distractions to help them focus on the task. There is much more that can be said about this, but a good summary is that leadership is about people (investors, employees, customers) while taking care of business.
    • Henrique Ploger Abreu
    • Marketing Manager, JD
    "When planning for a year, plant corn. When planting for a decade, plant trees. When planting for life, train and educate people." --Chinese proverb: Guanzi (c. 645BC).

    Executive intelligence, style, and personality are important traits in effective leaders, but the path to sustainable growth is the ability to innovate, create knowledge, and apply this to new products and services. An effective leader knows it is not about having the most knowledge, but about perceiving how and when to use knowledge. Traditional education systems are not meeting increased challenges from young people, many of whom are increasingly disappointed with current teaching approaches. They feel that their education is becoming obsolete to their daily lives and future careers. The first goal of all education should be to bring enlightenment to the students. Training the mind, not stuffing the brain with facts and formulas, is what they need.

    My vision is that we can make a difference in our world and in our organizations by coaching managers to be creative leaders. There is a need to focus on more than problem-solving skills and personal networks. It is important to foster aspirations and share values, excitement, and a view that almost anything is possible. We need to spread positive energy around us. Creating an entrepreneurship culture is about delivering, communicating, living, and believing in a passion for winning, a true we-can-do-it spirit.
    • Sandeep Muju
    • Corporate Vice President, Moser Baer
    The ability to rapidly digest information and then distill it down to the most relevant and substantive elements is an ability that can perhaps most appropriately be derived from cognitive ability or intelligence. From that standpoint, intelligence or "Executive Intelligence" is a key differentiator of star talent.

    However, another critical dimension of effective leadership is the ability to motivate and move people in a constructive manner. This requires skills for coherently communicating with and motivating people to internalize the message and constructively act on it. These leadership dimensions do appear to require greater emphasis on appropriate types of personality and style. I say "appropriate" since it depends on who is on the receiving end of the message. In this ever- globalizing business world, one fixed style or personality trait may not be successful everywhere.

    Overall, though, it is clear that to be in the "Executive Club," intelligence and cognitive ability is the most critical requirement. However, to make the leader a true leader, appropriate style and personality traits also need to be exhibited.
    • Anonymous
    So I'm starting to find that high IQ seems to have an unfortunate correlation with low EQ, as those high-IQ folks arrogantly believe that they don't need to engage at an emotional level. And now we think it's all about high EI?
    • Tonya Hoffman
    • Partner, Founder, Leading Minds UK
    At its best, leadership is a subtle process. The key to effectiveness lies in the quality of the vision and the primacy of that vision as the ultimate form of governing. Each person stands subordinate to that vision, including the leader. Executive intelligence lies in effectively steering a course towards that vision. The question I hear effective leaders ask is not "What service can I render as a leader?" but "What leadership can I exercise as a servant (to the vision)?"

    Leadership is not delegated; it is assumed. Regardless of organizational structures and effective decision making, in the long run, things get done among human beings. How do people work together? Do those served grow as persons? The only test of leadership is if someone follows voluntarily.

    The intelligence that I do find in leaders is a whole brain approach to thinking. They acknowledge both the left (logic, sequential thinking, etc) and right (images, emotions, etc.) in equal proportion. By working with the whole brain they are better able to develop their own intuition, which is critical in making decisions and unifying people. The executive intelligence is not just analytical; it is emotional as well. They passionately work towards a vision and in doing so inspire the hearts and minds of colleagues.
    • Hemant Rachh
    • Student, NMIMS, Mumbai
    In my opinion, executive intelligence is more important in effective leaders than style and personality. Style and personality are required for public image, but without executive intelligence these are useless. Moreover, how many leaders to date are called effective due to their style and personality?

    An effective leader does not have any specific skill set, but she must have some basic traits so she can articulate the timing of execution of skills. The combination of decision analysis, listening, and team work is already part of formal MBA and other programs which lead to "Executive Intelligence," but this combination is not used for selection purposes. Therefore, executive intelligence can be incorporated into the selection criteria.