AI – artificial intelligence – may be the way of the future, but EI – executive intelligence – is what your organization needs now.


Question marksRead any article on leadership and talent, and one of the recurrent themes is that there are many varied forms of these available to the discerning organization. From leaders who lead to those who ‘nudge’, it takes all kinds to make an organization complete. At the end of the day, management tends to look at personality traits, grooming styles and success ratios of the leader or talent in question in order to asses how well they fit into their specific workplace cultures.

Rarely, very rarely, is executive intelligence ever considered, let alone required, in the selection criteria of leaders. What exactly is executive intelligence and how can it affect your organization’s continuous efforts to successfully garner market share?

Executive intelligence, for the uninitiated, can be likened to osmosis – you take in the information, digest it, and spew out action-orientated results. Sounds easy enough? Well, consider the fact that the amount of information needed to be ingested is huge and diversified. You need an enhanced maven-like ability to do so. It really requires the ability to multitask and organize your thought processes, sorting them out, classifying and storing away information in little filling cabinets in your brain. Neat, orderly, and available at a moment’s notice.

The next step requires the ability of instinctively being able to connect the information with the situation at hand – be it people, projects or business plans. This requires superior planning abilities, an agile thought process capability with razor sharp acumen, and the ability to emulate these thoughts into workable action-oriented results. Its all starting to sound a bit more complicated now, isn’t it?

Finally, there is the actual result of this process of osmosis – the end product designed to produce the envisaged success story. It takes a person with calibre and dynamism to actually execute these ideas in action-oriented results. Most importantly, is the need to get others in the organization to actually buy into the whole idea. Without the buy-in, without belief in the virtual success of the plan, without conviction of the person selling the ideas, internal collapse is inevitable. It takes a really dynamic personality to actually ensure buy-in, belief and conviction, simultaneously. Well, what a super executive this person has to be!

Collectively, our super executive has EQ, IQ, leadership talent, personality, unquestionable values and immense experience. Our super executive is actually imbued with what is known as executive intelligence. In fact, you can always spot the leadership talent who is imbued with executive intelligence – it ‘shines’ through their very thoughts, actions and presence. They tend to leave an impression upon any who encounter them. They are ‘personalities’ that stand out in any sphere that they are thrown into and tend to dominate, be it aggressively or subtly, radiating confidence and intelligence.

Now that we have identified executive intelligence, how do we go about measuring it? This where the grey area or lacuna exists as there is no definite way to measure executive intelligence. This would explain why it is easier for organizations to simply ignore its existence all together when considering a particular leadership talent, usually taking it for granted that it comes along with the package.

There is always the very real problem of mistaking executive instincts with executive intelligence as one is quite similar to the other. The difference lies in the fact that executive intelligence must come first; i.e. it must exist in order for the leadership talent to have honed his instincts upon. The leadership talent would have applied his intelligence in situations as they arise, building up a case history where it soon becomes second nature or instinct to apply executive intelligence. In a real time scenario, it is possible to capitulate it as an analytical journey whose steps are dictated by a systematic and conceptual perspective.

It is really a very unique blend of leadership skills, the ability to think about conceptual matters and the capacity to act upon it. They thrive upon challenges especially in unfamiliar grounds, employing unprecedented methodologies to arrive at a plausible solution. Indeed, this is acknowledge as one of the best ways in developing a keen-edged intelligence that can make the critical difference between mere success and taking success onto another level.

Despite the obvious advantageous edge that organizations employing talents with executive intelligence will have, it also has the hidden advantage of subtly influencing workplace mores and customs. Leadership needs followers; otherwise there is nothing to lead. Leaders need to engage followers to accomplish projects, ideas and business plans. Having the right attitude and mindset is essential in making shifting the balance.

A leader with executive intelligence tends to inspire his team with that self-same intelligence. He imparts his expertise and knowledge to them and some essence of that precious executive knowledge will seep through to even the most laid back team member. At the end of the day, you find that executive intelligence can actually be quite catching. The organization will find that its star talents now have a better grasp and understanding of work mechanics and are able to cope better with challenging workplace environments. They are more focused on work and have an all-round enthusiasm that does wonders for morale, and subsequently, workplace success.

The next time the talent pool opens it doors to you, you might want to go the extra mile and cast your line a bit more carefully, so that you actually snare something worth the whole effort. The truth is, having a whole battalion of leadership talents with a string of success stories behind them will not ensure that that particular organization is destined for success. The ability of good and successful leaders includes putting the right people in the right place at the right time to do the right thing in the right manner. And that, quite simply calls for executive intelligence.

The author is the Regional Vice President of Management Concepts Asia Pacific. He enjoys balancing the need to develop business skills with the interpersonal and personal development areas for individuals. He has a strong belief that everyone can continue to learn and grow? Even if they do not think so! One problem that many people have in the workplace is that they continue to seek new ideas and the latest knowledge, without learning to apply what they already know. He enjoys awakening this in people and helping them exceed their own expectations in a practical way. He has been involved in Leadership Management Learning and Business Advisory Development since 1986. In his role, he has worked for clients in a variety of sectors in the public and private sector as well as in education, both in the Malaysia and overseas. After graduating he began his working life in teaching and business advisory, before moving into running a business in learning and business advisory development. He has successfully contributed to a wide variety of businesses and levels within them.

[Photo credit: JS Art]