The Grey Chronicles


The Right Stuff

Justin Menkes: Executive Intelligence : What All Great Leaders HaveJustin Menkes wrote a 4-section 15-chapter Executive Intelligence (2005) full of concepts and case illustrations showing what it takes to be a successful leader in any organization. The book is a study the individual components of critical thinking and intelligence—the core drivers of success—and their roles in business decision-making.

The book introduces the cognitive abilities that top business performers posses making them different from all of us. The second section critiques how experts have overlooked these critical abilities, flooding the market with methods and theories that are gravely inadequate when it comes to differentiating business talent. The third reveals how Executive Intelligence is measured. The last section explains how Executive Intelligence can be taught.

Although, Executive Intelligence [EI] acknowledges that it is rooted in critical thinking, yet different the abstract-logic and reasoning skills often associated with the latter. Menkes formally defines:

“Executive Intelligence 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. . . The more proficient an individual is in all three of these areas, the higher one’s level of Executive Intelligence.”

To accomplish tasks, EI considers the underlying assumption and the unintended consequences of one’s initiative. Managers formulate strategy, oversee logistics, provide direction, propose new initiatives, and execute plans. To understand people: EI focuses on the specific cognitive skills that allow an individual to understand the underlying agendas and the probable effects of one’s actions. Executives are required to anticipate and manage conflicts, oversee and manage teams and subordinates, communicate and work well with superiors, and deal with customers. and to judge oneself, EI involves assessment of oneself and correcting one’s errors in judgment. and look critically at his own biases or limitations in perspective. Leaders must integrate the suggestions or criticisms of others, recognize changing circumstances, and adapt accordingly.

Men like Sam Walton built WalMart even without an MBA, Jack Welch made GE into the most admired company in the world without ever going to business school, and David Packard made HP an industry leader without “business process reengineering” because of these individuals had the unique characteristics of critical thinking. Menkes explains:

“Their superior thought processes enabled them to better assess complex economic environments and identify appropriate responses to central business issues. When problems arose, they could accurately identify the causes and quickly take corrective action. They made good decisions, balancing the benefits and risks associated with their choices. And they implemented their chosen course of action effectively by circumventing problems and seizing opportunities.”

Creative thinkers view any idea from multiple perspectives, define each particular problem in several different ways, anticipate likely obstacles, and identify sensible options for overcoming those obstacles. The critical-thinking ability determines how skillfully someone gathers, processes, and applies information in order to identify the best way to reach a particular goal or navigate a complex situation or “create a solution tailored to suit each situation that arises.” Thus, critical thinking do away with schematic descriptions or step-by-step decision-making guides because they find these tools inadequate to their frame of mind. Menkes cautions, though:

“But the truth is there is no magic formula. This is exactly why so many MBAs trained in the best decision-making paradigms fail in the real world. The secret behind a star’s success lies in their ability to create a solution tailored to suit each situation at hand.”

Socially skilled people are exceptional at recognizing underlying agendas, gauging how these agendas may conflict with one another, and anticipating the probable effects and likely unintended consequences of a chosen course of action. They understand how those involved will likely react, and they weigh this information appropriately in their response. These specific capabilities determine one’s “people smarts.”

Furthermore, most of us acknowledge that executives must be able to recognize their own mistakes and minimize the costs of their missteps. Generally creative people are highly sensitive to the cues that suggest that they are making a mistake. They seek out and encourage this constructive criticism and use it to make appropriate adjustments to their plans of action. When they blunder, they are quick to see their mistake and change course to correct the problem. People who do these things well are “smart” about themselves.

In a series of experiments performed by Cornell University psychologists Justin Kruger and David Dunning in 1999, Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments., the title alone is self-evident.

Menkes recommends:

“To achieve superior results, organizations must be populated with the most-capable thinkers. More often than not, however, skilled executives are surrounded by mediocre colleagues who overlook their best ideas. Over time this frustrates and alienates the most talented staff. And because talent is scarce, and organizations have not had appropriate means for evaluating and developing the stars in their midst, few companies have been able to achieve the critical mass required for peak performance.”


Menkes, Justin (2005). Executive Intelligence : What All Great Leaders Have. Executive Intelligence Group. New York: Perfect Bound, 2005. xx, 312pp. back to text

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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