Author Justin Menkes tells us that executives must possess specific cognitive skills that make leaders great. But it´s interesting to me that the opening line of the press release for this book asks, "Why is it that some businesspeople lead so effortlessly, while others struggle trying to find the right ways to create strategy, solve problems, motivate, and manage?" I don´t know if effective businesspeople really lead so effortlessly. It may look that way, but I´ve always believed that real success is usually derived from a lot of hard work, the kind we might not always be privy to. I like to tell groups I speak to about pursuing dreams that while we may wear our hearts on our sleeves we rarely, at least in public, wear our struggles on our sleeves. So I don´t necessarily believe that it´s so effortless. In fact, I think it takes a lot of hard work, the ability to make good judgments and the ability to surround oneself with the right people in order to lead "effortlessly."
Yet Menkes´s work is based on nearly a decade of research with some heavy hitters like Jack Welch and Andrea Jung. In his new book Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have, Menkes identifies core aptitudes that successful executives share. First, there´s accomplishing tasks. Menkes says that executives who do this well can "effectively question underlying assumptions and anticipate unintended consequences of various tactics. They appropriately define a problem and differentiate essential objectives from less relevant concerns. They also anticipate likely obstacles to achieving objectives and identify sensible means to circumvent them."
The next aptitude is the ability to understand people. I never really thought of this as an aptitude however. But I think the author is probably right. I´m not sure people can really learn how to understand people. They either have it or they don´t. But if someone cares about people, then it´s likely that he or she is going to understand them, too. Here´s what Menkes says, " Executives who handle interpersonal situations well are able to recognize underlying agendas; gauge how these agendas may conflict with one another; and anticipate 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 responses."
Next time: more about Executive Intelligence by Justin Menkes