If the provocative title doesn’t catch your attention…
Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s book arrived at my door last month and I couldn’t help but judge it’s cover. Admittedly! “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” I don’t know. Why do they? If I start reading it, will I begin to lose faith in corporations and workplaces every where? Is there a ranking system I don’t know about having been out of the corporate world for so many years? Is this male writer just trying to win over female readers in the Me Too era???
It actually didn’t take me very long to put the questions aside and crack open the book, and I’m really glad I did because this isn’t the long winded opinion book I anticipated. It’s a call to action for more gender-balanced leadership teams everywhere, a digestible and heavily researched look at the power of optics in our society, and a super insightful exploration of how confidence is mistakenly valued over competence and rewarded across the social spectrum.
Confidence vs. Competence. What a topic to explore given the power driven culture we’ve bred. Simply put, “Competence is how good you are at something. Confidence is how good you think you are at something.” Given the political leaders we have in place and the social dynamics we see everyday when we scroll through our apps, it’s clear that we are equating confidence to success. That alone, is a problem.
In the book, Professor Chamorro-Premuzic says, “traits like overconfidence and self-absorption should be seen as red flags, when, in fact, the opposite tends to happen.” What tends to happen according to Chamorro-Premuzic, is that men are usually favoured in the workplace because they commonly display a level of confidence women don’t. Women on the other hand, are known to outperform men in grad and undergraduate studies, have better people skills, and are better at controlling their impulses, which the author says, are just some of the reasons why they’re naturally better in leadership positions. Unfortunately, they aren’t seen as such because “arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent.”
It’s certainly an interesting thought, one that I do agree with. I can’t help but associate Professor Chamorro-Premuzic theory – which he backs up with decades of research – with the current cultural landscape we’re in. No longer do we need to prove our education or work experiences to be regarded as an expert on a given topic or in a professional field. The bio line in our social media channels alone, allow us to become anything we want to be known as over night, i.e. a public figure for just having the option to be seen as one thanks to a drop down menu. I mean, if I changed my bio category to “Author” and started posting photos of myself writing feverishly at my desk, uploading quote boards from my soon to be released novel soon, would anyone question me? Well, my parents might. But if I started tweeting statements with conviction, strategically posting photos and crafting captions that give the public the idea that I am THE young, fresh, up and coming author that everyone should know about, I might start to think that I was and others would likely follow suit! Am I on to a social experiment ??
How about the chosen leaders we see running entire countries, even on provincial levels? Don’t get me started on Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s proposed budget cuts that will not only impact our education system but perhaps cause a ripple effect that will impact the livelihood of the next generation, parents, and teachers on a scale that we can’t imagine right now. A discussion starting with “Who gives him the right…” is welcomed. Feel free to DM me about this.
We seem to be celebrating people based on what they tell us, and what they tell us alone, rather than merit they’ve earned from actual experience. As Chamorro-Premuzic suggests, “If we want to upgrade the quality of our leaders, we need to stop falling for people who are overconfident, charismatic and even narcissistic, and select people on traits such as humility, integrity, and competence, rather than confidence.”
Through 9 comprehensive chapters, Chamorro-Premuzic breaks down what it takes to lead effectively and how we can promote the right people if we put different systems and processes in to place. Whether you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder, you’re a valuable piece in the political puzzle, or an entrepreneur, I highly recommend reading this book.
Here are some of the best nuggets from each chapter of Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Becomes Leaders?
Chapter 1: Why Most Leaders Are Inept
“…people tend to equate leadership with the very behaviours – overconfidence, for example – that often signal bad leadership. What’s more, these behaviours are more common in the average man than the average woman. The result is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence while punishing women for their competence. We need to replace our flawed leader-evaluation criteria with more relevant, effective criteria: some that predict actual performance rather than individual career success.”
Chapter 2: Confidence Disguised as Competence
“There is no simple way of determining whether someone’s confidence corresponds with his or her abilities unless you can measure the person’s abilities. When people simply tell you that they are good at something, all you can do is guess whether they have accurately assessed their abilities and are telling you the truth.”
“One reason overconfident leaders are more prone to reckless decisions is that they are immune to negative feedback.”
“In an environment that selects leaders for overconfidence, people who are overly self-critical – perhaps even a tad insecure – should be in high demand, but they are more likely to be ignored or ridiculed, on the assumption that they are not sufficiently strong or secure to lead.”
Chapter 3: Why Bad Guys Win
“Meta-analytic studies suggest that the gender differences in narcissism have indeed been declining over the past few decades, largely because women have become more narcissistic, rather than men becoming less so. This change reaffirms the danger of encouraging women to lean in or act more like men to climb the corporate ladder. We are only inviting them to strengthen a problematic leadership model and augment rather than reduce current incompetence rates.”
Chapter 4: The Charisma Myth
“Charismatic leaders excel at giving people hope; there are no better vehicles than charisma for selling a vision or providing individuals with meaning. However, when leaders are incompetent or unethical, the power of charisma will be turned against their followers, mobilizing them toward a counterproductive or even self destructive goals.”
Chapter 5: The Female Advantage
“As with so many other differences between men and women, women’s higher self-awareness – and greater likelihood of seeing themselves in worse light than others see them – is usually lamented as just one more thing that ambitious women will have to fix or get over. Women do report higher levels of depression and anxiety, and people can worry too much about what others think of them. And yes, it’s a challenge for many female leaders to learn to cope with the greater scrutiny and judgement they face. But the upshot of living under a microscope – and learning to see yourself as others see you – may be that it helps women become better leaders.”
Chapter 6: What Good Leaders Look Like
“Since leadership is, at its core, a process of influence, those who form broader and richer relationships with others will undoubtedly be in a better position to influence.”
Chapter 7: Learning to Distrust Our Instincts
“Since we spend most of our working hours online, we are leaving behind a rich digital footprint encapsulating a cast repertoire of behaviours, preferences, and thoughts. Some organizations will therefore assess talent by monitoring and measuring day-to-day employee activities, uncovering new signals for potential, engagement, and performance.”
Chapter 8: How Leaders Get Better
“…in most cultures- especially in the Western world – seeking feedback is seen as a sign of weakness. Indeed, there is a natural tension between performing and learning, and most leaders are too focused on the former to care about the latter. It takes some humility to accept that we have something to learn, and leaders are generally disinterested in exposing their limitations, even when they are aware of them.”
Chapter 9: Measuring a Leader’s Impact
“If we want better and more effective organizations and societies, we first and foremost need to improve the quality of our leaders. Compelling evidence suggests that leadership is more likely to improve if we start drawing more heavily from the female talent pool, especially if we understand that the women most likely to drive positive change look quite different from the typical leaders we have today, irrespective of gender. But even more critically, we must put in place much bigger obstacles for the disproportionate glut of incompetent meant who are so adept at becoming leaders, to everyone’s peril.”