Justin Menkes, Ph.D., is a leading expert in the field of evaluating C-suite executives and preparing individuals for the CEO position. His research led him to the discovery of Executive Intelligence and the creation of a methodology to measure it. Justin is an active member of Spencer Stuart’s Board Services Practice and Executive Assessment Services, and has been advising boards about their chief executives since 2002. He applies his deep understanding of leadership performance to his succession work with clients such as Blackstone, Chevron, Mass Mutual and State Street. Meknes has received international recognition for his expertise, authoring The Wall Street Journal best seller Executive Intelligence (2005), as well as articles for Chief Executive magazine, Directorship magazine and Harvard Business Review.
His latest book about the chief executive position in the 21st century, Better Under Pressure, was published in May of 2011 by Harvard Business Review Press. He has chaired master tutorials to train others in best practice assessment techniques, and was inducted into the Sigma Xi Psychological Honors Society in recognition of his research contributions to the field of psychology. During his doctoral work at Claremont Graduate University, he studied under the late Peter Drucker. Previously, he graduated with honors from Haverford College and received his M.A. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Menkes holds a Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Claremont Graduate University.
Morris: Before discussing your most recent book, Better Under Pressure, a few general questions. First, for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Executive Intelligence (ExI), what differentiates it from the multiple intelligences that Howard Gardner has written about in his various books and article?
Menkes: Executive Intelligence is about the specific skills one must have in order to succeed in senior leadership positions, i.e. the ability to evaluate underlying assumptions, recognize the likely emotional reactions of individuals, or sense a misstep and make appropriate adjustments.
Morris: It has been six years since Executive Intelligence was published. To what extent (if any) have you revised the concept of Executive Intelligence (ExI)?
Menkes: The concept has been broadened to involve some other qualities that are the foundation of my latest work.
Morris: In your opinion, is the need for today’s leaders to develop ExI greater or about the same as it was (let’s say) five years ago? Please explain.
Menkes: ExI, and its evaluation are very must about one’s ability to think under pressure. Given the evolution of global business, this is more important today, and it’s going to stay that way.
Morris: You have frequently acknowledged the importance to you of Peter Drucker’s influence that began when you were one of his students at Claremont Graduate University. Of all that you learned from him in or out of class, what has proven to be most valuable?
Menkes: Defining great leadership as the ability to get ordinary people to do extraordinary things. That concept is eternal.
Morris: Who else have also had a significant influence on your personal growth and professional development?
Menkes: Mihaly Czicksenmihalyi (sp?). His work with creativity and flow had a profound influence on me.
Morris: What specifically are your areas of involvement at Spencer Stuart?
Menkes: I work exclusively in the board and CEO practice.
Morris: In your opinion, what must happen so that women occupy more board and C-level positions in Fortune 500 companies?
Menkes: I think it’s an evolution. In the past there was not much social acceptance of men taking a primary care taking role at home. That has changed, and along with it, the opportunities for mothers to take on more demanding executive roles.
Morris: Based on what you have observed, to what extent (if any) is there a gap between what business schools now teach and what their students need to learn to become effective leaders and managers?
Menkes: They need to help students learn how to thrive under pressure. To understand themselves and their psychological vulnerability that might inhibit their ability to be effective in roles that involve ongoing complexity and duress. Preparation is essential.
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