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Intellectual Capacity: An Important Characteristic for Leaders

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Intellectual Capacity

One way that intellectual capacity can be described is as a transcendence beyond the conventional measures of intelligence; it is above average cognitive capability in those aspects related to leadership.

I submit that a leader’s intellectual capacity can be described within seven subordinate dimensions: people awareness, domain knowledge, common sense and good judgment, mental agility, creativity and ingenuity, critical skepticism, and opportunism.

Seven Dimensions of Intellectual Capacity

People Awareness. Intellectually capable leaders are aware of themselves and others as both individuals and members of various cultures. They attempt to understand motivations and currencies, as well as emotions and behaviors of themselves, in order to maintain clarity and consistency in their thoughts and actions. Additionally, leaders with intellectual capacity attempt to understand the motivations and currencies, as well as the emotions and behaviors of others and other cultures, in an attempt to be empathetic and predictive of others' actions.

Domain Knowledge. Through education, license, on-the-job experience, recognition, and networking, intellectually capable leaders have established themselves as a top subject matter expert in their domain.

Common Sense and Good Judgment. Intellectually capable leaders have not devoted so much time and effort to intellectual development that they have lost their social skills or common sense (as can be the case with many doctors, scientists, and professors). Intellectually capable leaders have street sense in addition to book smarts. These leaders make good decisions that are legal, ethical, moral, and safe the overwhelming majority of the time. In most cases, good judgment is preceded by consultation and collaboration with trusted advisers, and frequently involves selection of the safest or most conservative option available.

Mental Agility. Intellectually capable leaders are cognitively adaptable and flexible. The situation, mission, resources, and timeline are going to change several times; intellectually capable leaders expect and anticipate this situational turbulence, are able to quickly adjust their frame of thinking, and rapidly redesign and retool plans and operations to account for changes.

Creativity and Ingenuity. Intellectually capable leaders can develop and employ methods to solve problems that transcend the conventional solution. In time or resource-constrained environments, creative and ingenuous leaders can rapidly develop expedient solutions or "bridging strategies" to account for shortfalls, continue forward, and accomplish the mission.

Critical Skepticism. Intellectually capable leaders take little at face value; every email, telephone call, conversation and interaction, and report are scrutinized for inconsistencies and irregularities. Critically skeptical leaders have fine tuned their ability to identify half truths, exaggerations, and misrepresentations; these leaders remember the numerous old adages regarding reports and information: 1) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; 2) the first report is always inaccurate or incomplete; and 3) if a story doesn't add up, it's because someone is not being honest with the facts.

Opportunism. Intellectually capable leaders are opportunists, and are always on the lookout for a better solution, deal, opportunity, etc. If a better deal comes along, strong leaders will trade up with only the hesitation needed to conduct hasty due diligence. If a short-notice opportunity presents itself (as is usually the case), opportunistic leaders will seize upon it. When opportunity knocks, intellectually capable leaders kick the door down.

Conclusion

I closing, please allow me to reiterate my notion that a leader’s intellectual capacity can be described within seven subordinate dimensions: people awareness, domain knowledge, common sense and good judgment, mental agility, creativity and ingenuity, critical skepticism, and opportunism.

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