Why is it that some business people lead so effortlessly, while others struggle trying to find the right ways to create strategy, solve problems, motivate, and manage?

Book review: Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have
Reading the title for the first time I had on my mind, “What exactly is Executive Intelligence?” As if reading my (reader’s) mind, author Justin Menkes takes on the first 80 pages to explain this very term. By the time I was done reading with what it actually means I was highly drawn to read more on what comes next – where can one find the best Executive Intelligence or what can one do to nurture it?

One of the aspect defining Executive Intelligence is “Executive Intelligence is a distinct set of aptitudes that determine one’s success in the three central contexts of work: the accomplishment of tasks, working with and through other people, and assessing/adapting oneself.”

All along this thought provoking book, Menkes pulls together the insights of some well known management experts and CEOs and founders of big/small companies and weaves their sayings and thoughts together to emphasize the importance of executive intelligence.
Once done with the understanding of the Executive Intelligence, the author delves into the solutions for why Executive Intelligence is so rare.
Menkes summarizes, “The way our minds process information leads us to draw unwarranted conclusions and take immediate action without thinking first. This comes as the result of the way our brains have evolved over millions of years. One of the main reasons why Executive intelligence is so rare is that aptitudes composing it are contrary to the natural tendencies of the human brain.

Of late I had been thinking of writing a piece on the effectiveness of frequent executive and employee level meetings and the decisions that take place during such meetings. More meetings and specifically not holding meetings efficiently, does not equal to more work being done. In my opinion we lose action time and thinking time when involved in numerous meetings where the CEO’s executives expect the others to nod in approval of their thoughts and plans for the future. It would be more productive for the company to give more time on planning and development then on forcing fast decision making when we often times see that the project leads have to back-track their plans resulting in losses incurred to the organizations. Menkes brings together these very thoughts in an insightful chapter (titled: No time to think – the Myth about Speed): Speed, speed, speed” is the mantra of countless CEOs, which has led to the generalization that speed itself is a virtue. But that is not true. Taking a quick decision when the situation calls for it is essential. In other circumstances, however, taking more time to collect data and ask the right questions is even more necessary. Yet such distinctions have been lost, as fast has become synonymous with good, and slow with bad.

What Menkes says about executive intelligence is not only relevant at the executive level but equally or more applicable to the entrepreneurs. As he rightfully remarks, “Executive Intelligence determines the decision-making skill of those in leadership positions in any industry, in both public and private sectors.”

Beyond investigations on why Executive Intelligence is rare, the author probes deeper into what ‘intelligence’ means in business and executive decision making. He very aptly quotes Jim Kilts of Gillette when emphasizing that more than the traditional IQ is required when going for a stellar business performance – “Many of the top business leaders have attended elite academic institutions, and this education can serve as a good foundation – [developing] the ability to think critically and understand concepts. So a doctorate can be an indication of intellectual horsepower. But in a business setting you must be able to not only generate ideas but translate those ideas into results. This is the hardest thing and requires abilities that go beyond academic skills.

Menkes summarizes: “Knowledge refers to information that one can recall about a subject, while intelligence determines how skillfully one uses such information to achieve a particular goal.”

The book brings together some well-said business decision making dos and don’ts from the “already-been-there-done-that” gurus, CEOs and founders. Overall, a well researched book, an essential read for all CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs who wish to see success in their teams and business. Or just for the rest of us who wish to reach the tops rungs of success one day!