Mental ability as well as personality is important for leadership success. To inspire people, bring about constructive change, and solve problems creatively, leaders need to be mentally sharp. Competencies such as problem-solving skills and
intellectual skills are referred to collectively as cognitive factors (Dubrin 2007). A meta-analysis of 151 studies found a positive relationship between intelligence and job performance of leaders in different settings (Judge et al. 2004). On the other hand, intellectual ability is closely related to having knowledge of the business or the key task the group is performing. Leaders at every level are expected to bring forth useful ideas for carrying out the mission of the organization. Furthermore, such knowledge is particularly important when developing strategy and formulating mission statements.
Creativity is also such an important aspect of the leader’s role in the modern organization. Many effective leaders are creative in the sense that they arrive at imaginative and original solutions to complex problems.
Another important cognitive trait of leaders is insight, a depth of understanding that requires considerable intuition and common sense. Intuition is often the mental process used to provide the understanding of a problem. Insight into people and situations helps leaders make the best use of both their own and other’s talents and speed decision-making for wise choices.
To develop visions and corporate strategy, a leader needs far-sightedness: the ability to understand the long-range implications of actions and policies, and conceptual thinking: the ability to see the overall perspective and make far-sightedness possible. A conceptual thinker is also a systems thinker because he/she understands how the external environment influences the organization and how different parts of the organization influence each other.
Yet another important cognitive characteristic of leaders is their openness to experience, or their positive orientation towards learning. Leaders who have a great deal of openness to experience have well-developed intellects including imagination, curiosity, and intelligent artistic sensation (Dubrin 2007).