Have you ever met someone and written them off as a dim bulb, until you saw them in a different setting and realized how smart they are at something else?

  • For instance, someone who wouldn’t be described as book smart, but is great at relating with others?
  • Or the PhD data scientist who can’t dance without tripping, but can effortlessly find great insights in complex data sets?

There are different kinds of intelligence: analytical, interpersonal, athletic, spiritual, to name a few.

Just like there are different kinds of overall intelligence, there are different styles of management intelligence.

While we tend to think of management skill as binary (either you are good at management a team, or you’re not), I see more nuances in management skill.

Some people who can manage down very well are disasters at managing up. And vice versa. Some people who are great at managing internal relationships are weaker when it comes to relationships with people outside the company. And vice versa.

From my experience interviewing thousands of senior professionals, I count five flavors of management strength:

5 Types of Management Intelligence Diagram


  • Managing In: Innies are high on self-awareness. They can give you a nuanced inventory of their strengths and weaknesses. They can sense the effect they are having on other people and calibrate accordingly.
  • Managing Out: Outies love representing the company externally. They are great at building relationships with customers and partners. They are highly networked. They may prefer managing external relationships to internal ones.
  • Managing Across: Acrosstiks are great team players. They can bring their peers on board to a new initiative. They have a store of influence that they can exert to get things done.
  • Managing Up: Uppers are often the right-hand for their boss. They are not necessarily brown-nosers, but can be trusted to communicate up effectively and make their bosses’ jobs easier.
  • Managing Down: Downers (excuse the name) are great mentors, talent magnets, and talent developers for the teams they lead.

Which of these are your strongest suits? Do you align most with the innies, the outies, the acrosstiks, the uppers, or the downers?

If you’re like most people, it’s likely that you are stronger in some dimensions of management and weaker in others.

When you recruit, it’s important to make a good match between the management strength you need and the management strong suit that a candidate offers.

To do that, first reflect on what you need:

  • For the key role that you are recruiting for now, which flavor of management intelligence is most important? What tradeoffs are you willing to make?
  • For your overall team, can you attribute any shortcomings to an over-abundance of one style? Or a particular lack of one style? Which types of management intelligence are most important to develop on the team?

Next, have a candid conversation with your candidates to learn about their management strengths. Ask them the following:

  • Which type of management intelligence is your strong suit? How did you get good at that? (This question of ‘how did you get good at something?’ can reveal a lot about someone’s strengths, by the way.)
  • For this job, which types of management intelligence will you apply to it? How and why?
  • How will you use your management strengths in one area to compensate for your deficits in another area?
  • What are your developmental priorities across the 5 types of management intelligence?
  • With which type of management intelligence do you anticipate you will always struggle?

Factoring in management intelligence to your hiring process will give you a more holistic view of your needs and the strengths of your target talent market.