In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world of business, one of the most difficult challenges organizations and leaders within organizations face is executing their business strategy through people. I believe very strongly that Business Leadership is equal to execution of your business strategy.

Over the past few years, there has been a strong recognition from business leaders and talent development professionals that one of the most critical competencies that drives success is the competency called Business Acumen.

The data illustrated below shows the importance and criticality of Business Acumen in all levels of organizational leadership. According to a SHRM competency model, Business Acumen is important for early leaders, mid-career leaders, and senior leaders. It becomes extremely critical for executive leaders.

So what do business leaders think Business Acumen is? Very simply, Business Acumen can be defined as knowing and understanding the system of business. It can include things such as understanding strategy, reading financial statements, and measuring business performance through financial reports.


Despite the fact that much of the work we do is in the areas of Business Acumen and Business Leadership skill development, this blog presents a new and different perspective on what’s missing from the complete paradigm.

Over the past few months, I have come to believe from working with many leaders in different organizations that when leaders say they “Want to develop the Business Acumen of their people” they actually mean something else; “Business Intelligence”. If Business Acumen is defined as knowing and understanding the system of business, then Business Intelligence is defined as knowing how to be successful in business.

I present 5 elements of Business Intelligence that can be used today to become more successful in business. These include:


With an infinite access to data, information, and tools, it’s inexcusable for any business professional to be unprepared for their work, meetings, or any other aspect of their jobs. It is up to today’s leaders to coach and provide feedback on how to use Business Intelligence to prepare to do their jobs every day.


Again, with an infinite access to data, information, and tools business professionals must follow-up on commitments, promises, and responsibilities of their jobs. It is up to today’s leaders to illustrate what are the best practices and Business Intelligence of following-up, how to do it, and how to be accountable for commitments.

Manage Tasks and Time

Every business is made up of a complex set of tasks that support and deliver the value proposition of the business to customers. Every business professional needs to have the Business Intelligence to manage tasks and time and it’s up to our leaders to provide the skills and coaching to be effective at it.


It is too easy for employees to get lost at work and become very busy on things that are not of critical importance to the full value proposition being delivered to customers. Business Intelligence is the ability to prioritize what is important and not waste time on the things that aren’t important.

Assess People and Situation and Understand the Business Impacts

The last point related to business intelligence is that ability for employees to assess people, situations, and the business impacts. In other words, determine if a situation is critically important and if it is, what is the business impact? For example, if you are working with a new customer and the customer seems to be extremely diligent and has a strong attention to detail, don’t show up late and unprepared to a meeting with that individual.

My suggestion is to review these five elements of Business Intelligence with yourself in a self-assessment, and then discuss in an open and honest way with your teams. If you can identify some gaps, immediately prepare action plans to close those gaps.

Read more: How to Build Business Acumen on a Budget