Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have

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The final word on what traits make for highly successful managers—and a detailed explanation of how to identify potential standout performers.

Executive Intelligence is about the substance behind great leadership. Inspired by the work of Peter Drucker and Jim Collins, Justin Menkes set out to isolate the qualities that make for the 'right' people. Drawing on his background in psychology and bolstered by interviews with accomplished CEOs, Menkes...

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Executive Intelligence

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The final word on what traits make for highly successful managers—and a detailed explanation of how to identify potential standout performers.

Executive Intelligence is about the substance behind great leadership. Inspired by the work of Peter Drucker and Jim Collins, Justin Menkes set out to isolate the qualities that make for the 'right' people. Drawing on his background in psychology and bolstered by interviews with accomplished CEOs, Menkes paints the portrait of the ideal executive.

In a sense, Menkes's work reveals an executive IQ—the cognitive skills necessary in order to excel in senior management positions. Star leaders readily differentiate primary priorities from secondary concerns; they identify flawed assumptions; they anticipate the different needs of various stakeholders and how they might conflict with one another; and they recognise the underlying agendas of individuals in complex exchanges.

Weaving together research, interviews and the results of his own proprietary testing, Menkes exposes one of the great fallacies of corporate life, that hiring and promotion are conducted on a systematic or scientific basis that allows the most accomplished to rise to their levels of optimal responsibility.

Finally, Menkes is a passionate advocate for finding and employing the most talented people, especially those who may have been held back by external assumptions.

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Editorial Reviews

Chairman - Kevin Sharer
"Executive Intelligence offers real insights into what differentiates the great leaders from the pack."
James M. Kilts
Menkes does a great job of dissecting executive intelligence — the ability to analyze and solve problems in a business environment.”
Noel M. Tichy
“Executive Intelligence” is a breakthrough.”
James M. Citrin
“This will transform the way companies hire, promote and evaluate senior-level employees. It is nothing less than a revolution.”
Ed Breen
“Justin Menkes has provided a useful guide for helping to identify the people you want to bet your company on.”
Kevin Sharer: Chairman
“Executive Intelligence offers real insights into what differentiates the great leaders from the pack.”
“Menkes offers a stimulating analysis of an important topic.”
Publishers Weekly
On the heels of bestsellers about emotional intelligence and multiple intelligences have come titles on moral, cultural, social and visual intelligence. Consultant Menkes introduces the concept of executive intelligence, which he characterizes as "a blend of critical aptitudes that guide an individual's decision-making process and behavioral path." Menkes collects terrific first-person anecdotes of corporate failure and success, but the stories don't necessarily prove what he wants them to. With 20/20 hindsight, he attributes every setback-whether caused by shortsightedness, venality, stubbornness or simple bad timing-to some CEOs "severe lack of Executive Intelligence." And of course, EI gets credit for every decision that happened to pan out. The book's second half convincingly debunks time-honored techniques for assessing executive acumen and abilities; researchers, Menkes argues, "have for too long been enamored with attributes, such as personality and style, that are only tangentially related to how well executives actually do their job." But the author's surprisingly skimpy research doesn't clinch his case for replacing traditional hiring practices with EI-focused interviews. And it doesn't help that Menkes is unclear whether EI is ingrained or learned. Are we stuck with the EI we were born with, or is it something we can work on? If the former, why should general readers worry about it? (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
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. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060781880
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 635,269
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Justin Menkes is a managing director of the Executive Intelligence Group (EIG), a leading provider of executive assessment services to global corporations. EIG is an exclusive partner of Spencer Stuart, the world's preeminent executive search firm. Menkes created the Executive Intelligence Evaluation, used by businesses to identify, develop, and hire effective leaders. Menkes is internationally recognized for his expertise in managerial assessment and has written for the Harvard Business Review. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

Executive Intelligence

What All Great Leaders Have
By Justin Menkes

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Justin Menkes
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060781874

Chapter One

Part One: Making The Invisible Visible

In today's workplace, an individual cannot become a star executive without possessing a unique type of business "smarts" that we call Executive Intelligence. Historically, business "smarts" has been a bit like the word "indecency." As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said when asked to define the latter, "I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it."1 Still, we have all caught glimpses of this kind of intelligence, even in everyday situations, as the following example illustrates.

A truck was jammed underneath a highway overpass, and the fire department and a tow-truck driver were attempting to free the vehicle. But despite their earnest efforts, the truck remained stubbornly lodged. A motorist, annoyed by the delay, approached the fire chief and asked what the problem was. "The bridge is not high enough," the chief responded impatiently, "so the truck is wedged, and we're having trouble getting it out."

The gentleman responded, "It seems like the problem is that the truck is not low enough to get through." The fire chief laughed. "Yes, I guess that's another way to say it." The motorist persisted, "What I mean is, why don't you make the truck lower by letting the air out of the tires." Ten minutes later the truck was freed from the tunnel and traffic was moving again.

This kind of logic often appears to observers to be as clever as a magic trick -- a mysterious act with an impressive outcome. But just seeing the result does not get us any closer to understanding how the feat was accomplished. And if you do not know how the trick was performed, you cannot replicate it or teach it to others.

To create a useful understanding of the concept of business "smarts," we need to pull back the curtain and show how the magic trick is done. What's more, we need a consistent and reliable way to recognize and measure this kind of intelligence if we are to develop it in ourselves and also ensure that decision-making responsibilities are assigned to those best qualified to handle them.

So how do we define Executive Intelligence? In its simplest form, it is a distinct set of aptitudes that an individual must be able to demonstrate in three central contexts of work: the accomplishment of tasks, working with and through other people, and judging oneself and adapting one's behavior accordingly.

On the job, executives are constantly pursuing a variety of goals. They must decide which tasks to accomplish, in what order to do them, and how best to carry them out. They must find ways to meet their goals through the efforts of and cooperation with other people. And always they must actively evaluate themselves, identify their own errors, and make adjustments to correct them.

The more proficient an individual is in all three of these areas, the higher his or her level of Executive Intelligence. Obviously, Executive Intelligence does not consist of a single ability or isolated skill. Rather, it is a blend of critical aptitudes that guide an individual's decision-making process and behavioral path.

Executive Intelligence has its roots in what is commonly known as critical thinking, but it is not the same as the abstract-logic and reasoning skills often associated with that subject. Instead, it is an expanded and applied type of critical thinking; specifically it is how an individual skillfully uses the available information as a guide to thought and action.

This type of intelligence permeates every aspect of managerial work. A close analysis reveals a set of consistent, interrelated skills that form the very foundation of smart executive behavior. In a sense, the theory of Executive Intelligence pulls back the curtain and reveals the magic behind exceptional leadership performance.

We will go into greater detail about the components of the three areas of Executive Intelligence -- tasks, other people, and oneself -- later in the book. But the following examples will give you an idea of the essential role Executive Intelligence plays in business.


Excerpted from Executive Intelligence by Justin Menkes Copyright © 2005 by Justin Menkes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    For all the press this book got, I think it's pretty poor. It is

    For all the press this book got, I think it's pretty poor. It is predominantly a reiteration of common-knowledge based on the work of others. Where it doesn't reiterate the work of others, it merely quotes CEOs of various companies. I'll give it credit for a lot of great case studies, but it does not have a lot of content that is transferable. The take-away I got from the book is that "If you're smart, you'll be a good executive" - and then the definition of smart is debated for 40% of the book.

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