Decision-Making Is Not Primarily About IQ!

Decision-makers in a leadership role typically have several degrees of freedom.

This means they have multiple paths open to them–all leading to different potential outcomes.

This is both good news and bad news: If they decide their path well, they will become very successful. And vice-versa.

Note that such would not be a case with a professional who is not a decision-maker in a leadership role. Because, his main responsibility would be to execute on a path chosen by his leader.

Therefore, it is imperative that leaders have the ability to make the right choices. In other worlds, they need to possess excellent judgment (i.e. the ability to accurately assess people, situations, and ideas).

Successful decision-making leaders in history have been excellent on this skill. Below are a few examples:

  1. Napoleon had this skill. In one Coup d’œil (i.e. glance of an eye) he would be able to size up the war terrain, the enemy forces, and the morale of his own soldiers. He remarked: “There is a gift of being able to see at a glance the possibilities offered by the battle field terrain. One can call it the coup d’œil militaire and it is inborn in great generals.”
  2. J.P. Morgan had this skill. He was a very good judge of someone character/integrity. He once, in his capacity as a banker, bought from a person in Cuba a whole ship of coffee. The bank’s owners were angry at this risky decision of his, but in the end Morgan made tidy profit selling the coffee in New Orleans. The situation demanded quick decision/action and he was quite fast to judge, decide, and seize the opportunity! See this YouTube video to know more this great business man!
  3. Steve Jobs had this skill too. He would take significant decisions almost instantly! Jonathan Paul Ive, the famous British industrial designer who is currently the Chief Design Officer of Apple, once remarked this about Steve Jobs: “In most places that decision would have taken months. Steve did it in a half hour.” The decision that Jobs took was to offer iMac in 5 different colors, in 1998.

Now, can a leaders’s judgment skills be tested through standard IQ tests?

Well, no.

Because, the kind of judgment I am talking about is rightly tested only under real-life psychological pressures:

  1. In real life, we often have some kind of emotional baggage, around our past decisions. Certain past hires may have turned out to be a mistake. Certain business calls may have gone wrong. Such incidents impact our judgment and/or the ability to act confidently on that judgment.
  2. Moreover, real-life decisions have grave future consequences too. If a Napoleon judges the battlefield wrongly, or if a J. P. Morgan judges a person wrongly, or if a Steve Jobs makes a wrong business call, then the consequences will be quite severe!

IQ-tests fail to properly measure our judgment skills because they do not (and cannot!) simulate the 2 psychological states mentioned above!


The essence of Leadership is Judgment–a skill testable only under real-life pressures and not through ‘detached’ IQ tests. So, discount your IQ if you aspire to be a decision-making leader!