Recruiting Intelligent CEOs

The main job of the Board is to hire and fire the CEO.

In hiring, the Board looks for numerous competencies, experience, achievements, and organizational / strategic fit in a total package that brings the best odds of delivering the goals through and with the team. What the recruiters often fail to emphasize is the height and breadth of intelligence required – significantly beyond that needed in functional or middle management. Necessary competencies are to absorb, classify, remember and retrieve information in volume; to comprehend deeply the business environment; to be highly numerate and literate; to envisage wider consequences; to synthesize; to solve problems; to think holistically and strategically; and to make decisions within ambiguity. To deal intelligently and empathetically with each affected person and grouping, gaining and retaining their engagement and agreement is also essential. And to operate wisely and successfully in many different situations and environments is a must.

Psychologists identify multiple types of Intelligence. To lead a successful organization of people, CEOs need to offer intelligence across the gamut – among them IQ, EQ, and CQ.

IQ is the traditional measure of intellectual brainpower, for which many psychometric tests exist. This area of measurement and analysis has been greatly debated and developed over the decades, its science being still contentious, especially in the genetics versus environment debate. However, we all know roughly what IQ is.

EQ or Emotional Intelligence (social intelligence) became prominent in applied psychology from the 1980s. Most writers hold that EQ elements are learned abilities, rather than inherited traits. Emotionally intelligent leaders have matured as Grownups – able to be personally modest, but proud and passionate for the organization; to be a servant leader; to deliver calmness, reflection and considered decisiveness to the team, etc. Those EQ characteristics likely to be found in the most successful CEOs include high scores in Independence, Assertiveness, Optimism, Passion for Doing Things, and a strong sense of Self.

CQ or Cultural Intelligence is more recent, having gained some acceptance in the last five years. A really interesting concept of intelligence, CQ is the recognition of a person’s capability to work across cultures, successfully blending into a different cultural environment and working across diverse cultural settings. A useful example is the high CQ shown by the NZ Defence Force in its various reconstruction tasks – e.g. in Timor Leste, Solomons, Afghanistan – which gains praise from the UN. Our diplomats too are seen as high in CQ.

In a business context, CQ has always been essential in international trade, joint venturing and licensing. Now, in a multicultural employment and consumer marketplace like Auckland with its 80 ethnicities, it is a must-have. Elements in measuring CQ include the person’s interest and confidence in functioning in diverse cultures; their knowledge of how cultures differ (economic, legal, linguistic, religious, behavioural norms, gestures); and adaptability and flexibility to minimize gaffes and affronts. CEOs of high CQ understand and appreciate cultural diversity, and by learning, absorbing and behaving intelligently, can effectively adapt and blend to each cultural milieu they encounter.

CEOs need to bring many other attributes to their role, but without high and wide intelligence in several dimensions, the evidence points to a continual struggle.