Executive Intelligence: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 3rd, 2011 by bobmorris

Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have
Justin Menkes
HarperBusiness (2005)

A rigorous and eloquent examination of “the single biggest driver of executive performance”

There are significant differences between information and knowledge. The former consists of raw data; the latter is what results from an evaluation of the data to increase one’s knowledge and understanding of the given subject. Hence the importance of judgment when making decisions based on that understanding. Also, there are differences between what can be learned from formal training (e.g. reading, reasoning, and writing skills) and what cannot (e.g. character). Finally, as Howard Gardner and countless others have asserted, there are many different forms of intelligence that are frequently viewed as aptitudes.

For example, in Five Minds for the Future, Gardner identifies and then explains five separate but related combinations of cognitive abilities that are needed to “thrive in the world during eras to come…[cognitive abilities] which we should develop in the future.” Gardner refers to them as “minds” but they are really mindsets. Mastery of each enables a person:

1. to know how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding;

2. to take information from disparate sources and make sense of it by understanding and evaluating that information objectively;

3. by building on discipline and synthesis, to break new ground;

4. by “recognizing that nowadays one can no longer remain within one’s shell or one’s home territory,” to note and welcome differences between human individuals and between human groups so as to understand them and work effectively with them;

5. and finally, “proceeding on a level more abstract than the respectful mind,” to reflect on the nature of one’s work and the needs and desires of the society in which one lives.

Gardner notes that the five “minds” he examines in this book are different from the eight or nine human intelligences that he examines in his earlier works. “Rather than being distinct computational capabilities, they are better thought of as broad uses of the mind that we can cultivate at school, in professions, or at the workplace.”

In this volume, Justin Mendes explains that Executive Intelligence(tm) (or ExI) “is the single biggest driver of executive performance” and claims that it is overlooked by current assessment practices. Through his work with some of the most effective executives in the world, Menkes, co-founder of Executive Intelligence Group, sought to understand the qualities of star performers. He found that success could be attributed to intelligence but not to, for example, the academic IQ required for admission into top universities. Instead, Menkes has identified specific patterns of “intelligent executive behavior.” He distilled this behavioral pattern of success and, over three years, designed an assessment methodology to measure it. This is the Executive Intelligence Evaluation. What does this evaluation involve? I visited executiveintelligence.com and located this explanation:

“Structured as a one-on-one interview, the Executive Intelligence Evaluation quantifies and benchmarks an executive on the unique cognitive skills that are essential for leadership excellence. Instead of simply asking an executive about their capabilities, the methodology requires a candidate to demonstrate their skills. To accomplish this, the ExI Evaluation utilizes job relevant scenarios that necessitate: decision making and information gathering, managing the activities of others, and evaluating/adapting one’s own thinking and behavior – in other words, the central responsibilities of any executive. What’s more, a candidate’s capabilities are evaluated in the real-time verbal format in which they must be demonstrated on the job. The interview takes about one-and-a-half hours and is conducted by a highly trained expert. Scores have been shown to have no adverse impact in terms of race, gender, language, or country of origin.”

This brilliant book can be of immense value to C-level executives in any organization (regardless of its size or nature) who have or share primary responsibility in one or more of these areas:

• Identifying their organization’s leadership and management needs
• Locating, interviewing, and selecting those to fill those needs
• Supervising assignment and development of executive talent
• Measuring executives’ performance
• Determining their compensation
• Deciding on promotions, probations, and terminations

Those who share my high regard for Executive Intelligence are urged to check out Menkes’ recently published book, Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011). Also, any of Howard Gardner’s books (including the aforementioned Five Minds for the Future), Daniel Goleman’s Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis’ Judgment: How Winning leaders Make Great Calls, Steven Feinberg’s The Advantage-Makers: How Exceptional Leaders Win by Creating Opportunities Others Don’t, and Launching a Leadership Revolution: Mastering the Five Levels of Influence co-authored by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

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  1. […] To read my review of his brilliant book, Executive Intelligence, please click here. […]

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