Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?

I am one of those people who makes decisions based on names. I choose racehorses by their name, I choose wine by the label and I am attracted to books by their titles. When I saw this title of Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? I had to pick it up.

There were some interesting observations and insights in this book and I’d like to share some of the key ones with you. I highly recommend this book for anyone in leadership or managing a team, or who would like to lead a business to success, or who simply wants to hear an interesting perspective.

According to Chamorro-Premuzic:

  • Charisma is too often mistaken for leadership, and extroverted, passionate, confident behaviour mistaken for knowledge and expertise.
  • But confidence does not equal competence.
  • Narcissism and psychopathy are found in male leaders 30%– 40% more often than in female leaders. We follow narcissists as they tap into our own aspirations and narcissism.
  • Over the last 20 years narcissism rates in women have been increasing as they are being encouraged to ‘step up’ and be ‘more like men’.
  • Providing one clear recommendation is often seen as a strength, while providing well thought-through options and alternatives can be seen as a sign of weakness and lack of confidence.
  • Men speak more than women in meetings, making them appear to be better leaders. Too often, it is assumed that quieter individuals are not able to motivate or inspire.

Several days after finishing this book I was faced with a telling example. A general manager friend of mine was telling me about a situation in which it became clear that an incompetent man was about to be promoted over a competent man. The general manager was discussing his succession plan and outlining the reasons he was recommending ‘Bob’ rather than ‘John’ as his successor.

Let me share with you the pros and cons of each team member.

When I asked the general manager which person would a) be preferable to work for and b) be the best type of leader to represent the business, the answer was John not Bob.

As you make your next recruitment or promotion decision, could you be mistaking confidence for competence or charisma for leadership?