A typical CEO possesses many skills. Out of all the skills that a CEO has, is there one single skill which differentiates a successful CEO from others?
This question posed to a MBA class will immediately get answers like hard work, intelligence, leadership skills etc. However, these are the normal or basic skills that every CEO possesses. Not having them in a CEO is an oxymoron. However, these skills are not just the exclusive preserve of the CEOs. We keep meeting people who have all these qualities and more and still languish at mid or senior management level in their careers. Or even if they manage to become a CEO they prove to be unsuccessful.
So is there one quality which separates a genuine CEO material from others. My argument is yes, there is one. Lets first analyse what is the most basic function of a CEO?
You’ll agree with me that the most basic function of a CEO is taking decisions. Whether short term decisions which are more hands on or the long term strategic decisions pertaining to the next two years’ roadmap, CEOs have to take decisions. In the final analysis this is their core function.
One of the Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov is about the various manipulations and contrivances to ensure the hero’s presence at the climatic moment so that he can take the one crucial decision deciding the fate of the galaxy. Why him?

Because he has the proven ability to always take the right decision. Imagine the probability of taking all the right decisions in one’s life. From whom to make your friend to the selection of courses, school, college, career, life partner etc.
Executives also take numerous decisions throughout their career journey starting from their choice of career which in itself is very complicated. Then which company to join, when to shift, location, project, the list is exhausting.
Even in politics, son of a “chaiwala”, if he has the ability to take the right decisions combined with all the other basic traits can end up being the PM of a country. Imagine the probability of taking all the correct decisions which made him end up at the PM’s chair. Which causes to support? Which party official to support? During intra-party dispute which faction to support? And so on and so forth.
Coming to the crux of the matter, what makes these people special that they usually take the correct decision? How do they decide? Is the decision based on the rigorous research reports? Or is it based on hefty data analyses or do they consult a “baba” or a spiritual guru. Or is it plain simple Luck?
Many of us have faced situations where despite all the data and reports pointing to the contrary we have taken a different decision and it proved to be correct. It just felt right! Before going further let’s analyse some cases.
Kishore Biyani from Future group writes in his autobiography that in his early days he would select a location for a Big Bazaar Store only if on visiting the location a bell would ring in his head.
Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book “Blink” that some experts have trained their mind to such an extent that they can instinctively take the correct decision, as if in a blink of a second.
Jim Corbett writes in his books that many a times when chasing man-eaters it was his intuition that saved him.
Imran Khan the famous cricketer and politician of Pakistan writes in his book “Pakistan” that when he started his political career people used to make a fool of him and he could never differentiate genuine ones from the self-seekers. As per him it was only after 10 years of dealing with people that he could generate an instinct and can now easily separate the frauds and the self-seekers from the genuine ones just by meeting them once.
So what is this intuition or instinct? Is it acquired by birth or is it a learned skill or can it be developed?
Let’s analyse another piece of information. As per reports a surprisingly large number of successful people meditate daily. And the list includes Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Ford, Clint Eastwood and many more. Does it make them more intuitive? Going by their success, apparently they have a higher probability of taking right decisions.
According to experts the right side of our brain is the creative and intuitive brain as opposed to the left side which is more logical. This line of thinking says that our current education system which is more focused on the left brain stimulation through stress on maths and logic stymies the right brain development. Else we would have been more intuitive.
A study on one of the most successful communities in the world, with controlling stakes in the biggest banks, diamond industry, Hollywood etc – the Jews, reports that Israeli kids are not taught logic studies like maths until a certain age and till then they are only taught right brain development activities like music, archery etc. Their diet is regulated to stimulate the right brain. In fact the study reports that a lady expecting a child purposefully spends time on activities like playing Piano and chess among other things. Whether because of it or not but Jews do appear to be taking better decisions then other communities.
So are there any techniques to stimulate the right brain? The answer is yes. There are techniques to stimulate the right brain. However, the best results are obtained if a person starts these exercises before the age of 15 but even at a later stage one can benefit from these exercises.
And what are these exercises? Apart from indulging in creative arts, the other activities include meditation, brain stimulation through binaural beats, exercises on image recollection etc. A word of caution here, these exercises should be done under expert guidance only.